An IDF force patrolling the Israeli-Lebanese border last Thursday identified several suspicious figures who had crossed the international border and were advancing towards the security fence in Israeli territory. The troops opened fire at the figures.
Early the following day forces conducted searches in the area to rule out the possibility that explosives had been left behind.
The incident took place near the location where reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were abducted in a cross-border Hizbullah raid in mid-July.
A military source from the Northern Command told Ynet that the suspicious movement was not necessarily Hizbullah fighters but may well have been wild animals, but that this was the first implementation of the IDF's newly formulated Modus Operandi.
According to the military official the change in strategy emphasizes maintaining Israel's sovereignty over its territory and allowing the IDF to act in order to realize its goals.
"If in the past we took a different approach, operating further away from the border, today we look into every single irregular report, investigate it and act accordingly," he said.
In early February IDF troops uncovered newly planted Hizbullah explosives inside the buffer zone. As they operated to clear the explosives Lebanese troops opened fire at the Israeli soldiers, who responded with tank fire. No casualties were reported on either side.
"Ultimately in that incident, we both won," said the military official, "we carried out the mission and cleared the explosives and the Lebanese army sought to depict itself as ruler of that area."
The army said it would continue to operate as it had on Thursday. "It caused a little commotion, because UN forces immediately arrived at the scene, but we showed them that it was our territory and that's the way it will always be – anyone advancing towards the fence (past the international border) will immediately be suspected of terror activity," said the military source.
Hizbullah gaining strength north of Litani
The army has recently completed a large-scale defense project along the northern border aimed towards rehabilitating and reinforcing the security fence and fortifying the north's military outposts. The Galilee division has also multiplied the number of armored vehicles at its disposal by almost a third. The estimated cost of the post-war project stands at almost $25 million.
The IDF has a clear picture of Hizbullah's efforts to rebuild itself after the war. Most of these efforts are being done north of the Litani River to provide the organization with a quality depth into Lebanon should another conflict emerge. Alongside this the incessant arms smuggling across the Syrian border into Lebanon continues.
The military also reports a significant rise in the traffic of persons near and along the border. These, says the army, are Hizbullah members posing as civilians.
Another growing trend is the support offered by Iran to Lebanese terrorism. "The Iranians continue to aid Hizbullah in moving funds and various training for their men, as well as additional professional fields," said a military official from the Northern Command.
For now the IDF is content with the conduct of the UNIFIL monitors, but the army admits that there may come a time in the future when the IDF will have to act on its own. "We are preparing for that possibility as well, and we will focus on that when the time comes," said the official.
In the meantime Hizbullah has also begun to tests the UN forces in southern Lebanon and recently laid a dummy mine near a nature reserve where Spanish soldiers from the multi-national force were disposing of explosives.