Hezbollah stages mock border raids in message to Israel

Heavily armed Lebanese group puts on rare public wargame

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Hezbollah, the armed group and political party that holds significant sway in Lebanon, made a show of force on Sunday by staging a large-scale military manoeuvre in the south of the country.

The Iran-backed group put on a mock cross-border attack against its archenemy Israel, in a rare demonstration for journalists.

Hezbollah spokesman Mohammad Afif said it was the largest media event it had organised.

Masked gunmen jumped through flaming hoops, climbed up ropes, fired from the backs of motorcycles and shot at mocked-up Israeli targets.

They also staged a cross border raid with the support of a drone attack, as explosions pummeled a hill overlooking the site in southern Lebanon.

Both light and heavy weapons and vehicles, including anti-aircraft weapons and rocket launchers, were on show.

Hashem Safieddine, the most senior Hezbollah official present, said the exercise was meant to “confirm our complete readiness to confront any aggression”.

He said that if Israel were ever to “dream of doing something foolish … we will rain down our precision missiles and all the weapons at our disposal”.

Such rhetoric from both sides is common, with both often saying they are prepared for war.

On the ground the conflict has been largely frozen since they fought the deadly conflict of 2006.

However, Israel regularly hits targets related to Hezbollah and Iran in neighbouring Syria. Hezbollah has played an important role in supporting the government of Bashar Al Assad during Syria's 12-year civil war.

Sunday’s parade was held to mark the 23rd anniversary of Resistance and Liberation Day. It commemorates the occasion that Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon as they came under attack from Hezbollah.

While that day is celebrated in Lebanon, opinions on Hezbollah are deeply divided. Critics accuse it of operating outside of the state and of being a pawn of Iran in Lebanon.

Many western countries have proscribed both Hezbollah's armed and political wings.

Last month Israel launched strikes on southern Lebanon after about three dozen rockets were fired from there into Israel, injuring two people and causing some property damage.

Israel said the attack was aimed at military installations of Hamas, the Palestinian political party and armed group, which it blamed for the attacks on southern Lebanon.

Updated: May 22, 2023, 7:57 AM