In indirect message, Hezbollah asks Israel to avoid escalation


TEL AVIV (JTA) — Hezbollah has sent a message to Israel requesting that the sides avoid an escalation of tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border.

The message, sent overnight via the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon, came after Hezbollah killed two Israeli soldiers and injured seven in a strike Wednesday on an Israeli army border patrol.

According to the Times of Israel, the message said that the attack was meant only as a response to a strike on Hezbollah operatives in Syria last week. Israel allegedly executed the strike, though Israeli officials have not confirmed those reports.

“UNIFIL sent us a message that as far as [Hezbollah] is concerned the incident is over,” Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told Israel Radio on Thursday, using the U.N. force’s acronym, according to the Times of Israel. “The IDF is ready, deployed for any development. Our long arm knows how to reach wherever is necessary. Anyone who tries to attack us is signing their own death warrant.”

Israel has maintained heightened security on the border following the attack by the Lebanon-based terrorist group. Israeli return fire after the attack killed a United Nations Spanish peacekeeping soldier, Cpl. Francisco Javier Soria Toledo, and the United Nations Security Council met after the exchange of fire to explore ways to diffuse the tension.

In response to the Hezbollah attack, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters, “We support Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense and continue to urge all parties to respect the blue line between Israel and Lebanon.”

The two fallen Israeli soldiers, Cpt. Yochai Kalengel and Sgt. Dor Nini, will be buried Thursday in separate funerals.

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