Israeli soldiers take position along border with Lebanon, in the town of Metulla in northern Israel on July 12, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

BEIRUTL: Several members of Lebanon’s powerful armed Hezbollah group were wounded on Wednesday in a flare-up on the southern border with Israel, a Lebanese security source and a source briefed on the developments told Reuters.

The incident took place on the 17th anniversary of the start of a month-long war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006 that killed 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and around 160 Israelis, most of them troops fighting Hezbollah inside Lebanon.

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The Israeli army later told The Associated Press that soldiers had used a stun grenade.

The incident took place hours before Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah was scheduled to speak to commemorate the start of a monthlong war

There was no immediate comment from Hezbollah’s media office on Wednesday. The Israeli military said it used “a non-lethal weapon” to distance “a number of suspects” attempting to damage the security fence with Lebanon to the north.

The Lebanese source briefed on developments in the south described the incident as an attack and said several Hezbollah members had been wounded, but could not immediately provide more details.

One Lebanese security source said a grenade fired by Israeli forces had wounded three people believed to be members of Hezbollah. Another said Israeli troops had fired a grenade at a group of Hezbollah members on the border, wounding three people.

Israel’s public broadcaster Kan said a group of Hezbollah members had set a fire at the border, setting off landmines, and that Israeli troops had fired warning shots during the incident.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah was due to make a televised address to commemorate the 2006 war.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said the army “deterred activists with nonlethal means.” The army told The Associated Press that soldiers the explosion came from a stun grenade used to push them away.

“Anyone who tries us will get an answer,” Gallant said. “We have a lot to do and we will know how to do what is needed at the right time.”

UN peacekeeping forces along the southern Lebanese border, known as Unifil, said they were investigating the situation.

“In the meantime, the situation is extremely severe,” Unifil said. “We urge everyone to cease any action that may lead to escalation of any kind.”

Hezbollah had no immediate comment on the incident.

Lebanese officials said that Israel in recent weeks has built a wall around the Lebanese part of Ghajar, a border town that straddles between the tiny Mediterranean country and Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Lebanon’s foreign minister asked the country’s permanent mission to the United Nations to file a complaint on the matter.

Israel meanwhile in June filed a complaint with the UN claiming that Hezbollah had set up tents several dozen meters (yards) within Israeli territory. It’s unclear what the tents were used for and what was inside them. They were erected in Chebaa Farms and the Kfar Chouba hills, which Israeli captured from Syria during the 1967 Mideast War and annexed in 1981, though Lebanon claims the area belongs to them.

Israel considers Hezbollah its most serious immediate threat, and estimates that it has some 150,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel.