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Israel army says repelled 'terrorist' attack on northern border

A picture taken from the Israeli side of the Blue Line that separates Israel and Lebanon shows smoke billowing above the Shebaa village sector in southern Lebanon after reports of clashes in the border area
A picture taken from the Israeli side of the Blue Line that separates Israel and Lebanon shows smoke billowing above the Shebaa village sector in southern Lebanon after reports of clashes in the border area Jalaa MAREY AFP
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Jerusalem (AFP)

Israel said it had repelled an attempt by "terrorists" to penetrate its territory on Monday, opening fire on the gunmen just after they crossed the frontier with Lebanon.

It said a group of three to five men armed with rifles crossed the Blue Line that divides the country in the disputed Mount Dov area, claimed by Lebanon, Syria and Israel as their own.

Israeli army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said spotters had tracked the group as they approached the border.

"Once they crossed the border, we engaged," he said.

"We confirmed visually that the terrorists fled back to Lebanon," he added.

There were no reported casualties among Israeli forces, Conricus said.

Details on any casualties from the Lebanese side were not immediately available.

Israel has not yet blamed the infiltration attempt on the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.

But the clash followed Israeli media reports of a looming possible retaliation attack from Hezbollah after one of its fighters was killed in an air strike in Syria that was blamed on Israel.

A Lebanese TV station loyal to Hezbollah said Israel had been shelling targets across the border.

Conricus said Israeli forces had fired artillery into Lebanon "for defensive purposes".

An AFP correspondent reported Israeli artillery bombardment on the hills of Kfarchouba in the Shebaa Farms area near the Israeli position of Roueysaat al-Alam, and reported plumes of smoke rising above the area.

Israel's army had initially ordered civilians on its side of the Blue Line to stay indoors, but later lifted those restrictions.

- 'Maximum restraint' -

The United Nations considers the Mount Dov area where the clashes occurred as part of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL called for "maximum restraint", adding that the firing had stopped.

Israel has in recent days placed its northern border on high alert and sent troop reinforcements to the area.

Lebanon-based and Iran-backed Hezbollah has a substantial presence in Syria, where it is fighting in support of the Damascus government in the country's civil war.

Israel hit Syrian army targets late Friday after munitions were fired across the Syrian border into Israel.

Hezbollah number two Naim Qasim said on Sunday: "If the Israelis decided to launch a war, we will confront it and we will respond."

"What happened in Syria is an aggression that led to the death of Ali Kamil Mohsen," he said about the strike in Syria.

The missile attack on July 20 at night hit weapons depots and military positions belonging to Syrian regime forces and Iran-backed militia fighters south of Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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