Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement simulated cross-border raids into Israel Sunday in a show of its military might, using live ammunition and an attack drone, AFP correspondents said.
Around 200 Hezbollah fighters took part in the raids, part of large-scale military exercise in Aaramta, around 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the Israeli border.
Dozens of journalists were invited to the event which took place ahead of the anniversary next week of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000.
One simulated raid involved a drone attack against a target inside Israel, while in another, fighters attacked vehicles across a mock border, retrieved a dummy’s body from one of the cars and whisked it back across the “frontier.”
Snipers shot at targets adorned with the Star of David while other fighters jumped through flaming hoops, during the largest demonstration of the group’s military muscle in years in southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah also put on display heavy and light arms, including anti-aircraft weapons and rocket launchers as well as rocket-propelled grenades.
“If some people in the Zionist entity (Israel) dream of doing something foolish… we will rain down our precision missiles and all the weapons at our disposal,” senior Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine said at the event.
Hezbollah, founded in 1982 to fight the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, is Iran’s main regional proxy.
Considered a “terrorist” organization by many Western governments, the Shiite militant group is the only Lebanese faction that kept its weapons after the end of the country’s 1975-1990 civil war.
It now has an arsenal that some say rivals that of the national army, justifying this by emphasizing its role of “resistance” against the Israeli enemy.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a devastating war in 2006 after the group captured two Israeli soldiers.
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) acts as a buffer between Lebanon and Israel, and operates in the south near the border, a Hezbollah stronghold.
UNIFIL was set up in 1978 to monitor the withdrawal of Israeli forces after they invaded Lebanon in reprisal for a Palestinian attack.
The two countries remain technically at war and the border remains the scene of sporadic skirmishes.
Hezbollah is also a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad‘s regime and has officially been fighting alongside his forces since 2013.