Crowds gather on Lebanon-Israel border after death of Hezbollah-affiliated protester

Three injured during protests on Israel border against attacks on Palestinians

Hundreds of demonstrators have gathered on Israel’s border with Lebanon, pelting IDF security cameras with stones and attempting to scale the security wall.

The Israeli army used live fire again on Saturday afternoon, but there were no initial reports of casualties.

Protests have escalated on the border after Israeli soldiers killed a Lebanese man with ties to the militant group Hezbollah and injured at least three others who were protesting at the border on Friday.

The men were demonstrating against Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip when they were hit, Lebanon's National News Agency said.

Hezbollah identified the dead man as Mohamad Tahan, 21, and said he was a member.

The incident occurred after a number of "young demonstrators tried to enter the border town of Metulla" in northern Israel, the agency said.

Videos circulating on social media appeared to show that they were unarmed and carrying flags of Palestine and Hezbollah.

The powerful pro-Iranian Shiite group controls south Lebanon and views Israel as its arch-enemy.

The Lebanese Army intervened to remove the dozens of young demonstrators from the area.

Tahan was taken with another wounded protester to a hospital in the Lebanese town of Marjayoun, where he died from injuries caused by "rocket-propelled grenades fired by the Zionist enemy", the NNA said.

Two other protesters, who were injured by rubber bullets and tear gas, were stranded in a water channel until Saturday morning, according to the NNA. They were taken to the same hospital.

Mohamad Tahan died after Israeli soldiers shot at protesters on the Lebanon-Israel border. Lebanon News Agency
Mohamad Tahan died after Israeli soldiers shot at protesters on the Lebanon-Israel border. Lebanon News Agency

A Hezbollah spokesman told the Lebanese newspaper L’Orient Today that although Tahan was a party member, the group had not ordered the protest. The daily also reported that Lebanese authorities detained four men from Lebanon’s largest Palestinian camp, Ain El Hilweh, who took part in the demonstration.

The Lebanese army enforced "strict security measures" in the region of Marjayoun on Saturday and closed the road opposite Metulla, the NNA reported. The army also set up checkpoints to prevent Palestinians from reaching the border after calls for further protests.

Hours after the border shooting on Friday, three rockets were fired into the Israel-occupied Golan Heights from neighbouring Syria, where Hezbollah and Iran have a military presence to support Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. There was no claim of responsibility for the rocket attack, and no reports of damage or injuries.

Lebanon and Israel have been technically at war since the creation of Israel in 1948. The border area is heavily patrolled by Israeli and Lebanese soldiers, as well as by a UN peacekeeping force, Unifil.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun condemned what he called "the crime committed by Israeli forces", while Unifil called for "everyone to remain calm and avoid risking more lives".

Caretaker prime minister Hassan Diab issued a statement saying that “martyr Muhammad Tahan was shot by the enemy” and that Israel had “committed a new crime against unarmed demonstrators in southern Lebanon”.

The Hezbollah-affiliated Al Manar TV channel also mourned Mr Tahan as a “martyr”.

The protesters had gathered on Friday in the Khiam plain opposite Metulla, an AFP photographer said.

They later set fire to the area, with the flames spreading all the way to the border, he said.

The Israeli Army said that its tanks had "fired warning shots at a number of rioters ... who had crossed into Israeli territory".

They "sabotaged the fence and set fire to it ... before returning to Lebanese territory", it added.

Tensions remained high late on Friday as two Palestinians tried to cross the barbed-wire border fence, before being repelled by Israeli fire, NNA said.

The army fired flares over the nearby Lebanese village of Kfar Kila.

On Thursday, the Israeli army reported that three rockets were fired towards Israel from near the Palestinian refugee camp of Rashidiyeh in southern Lebanon, but caused no damage.

Hezbollah denied any involvement in the incident.

Israel and Hezbollah regularly exchange cross-border fire and fought an all-out war in the summer of 2006 that claimed the lives of at least 1,109 Lebanese, mostly civilians, 43 Israeli civilians and 12 Israeli soldiers.

Updated: May 16, 2021 07:38 AM

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