Photo Credit: Ayal Margolin/Flash90
The fire that spread from the Lebanese side of the border to the Israeli side of the border in Kibbutz Malkiah, northern Israel, July 28, 2023.

Kibbutz Malkiah farmers on Sunday reported heavy damage to their kiwifruit plantation following a fire that was started over the weekend north of the Lebanese border and quickly spread to Israeli territory. Members of the kibbutz, which was established in 1949 in the Upper Galilee, suspect that this was deliberate arson by Hezbollah operatives, who have recently been leading a series of provocations along the border. The fire destroyed 7.5 acres of trees that were ready for harvest.

Secretary General of HaBithonistim Lt. Col. Yaron Buskila on Monday told 104.5FM that “the security establishment and the prime minister are aware of the repeated and unusual provocations carried out by Hezbollah on the northern border. This has become a major violation that harms the security infrastructure or the sovereignty of the State of Israel, such as the two tents erected on Israeli territory.”

Lebanese and Hezbollah soldiers taking pictures during a fire that spread from the Lebanese side of the border to the Israeli side of the border in Kibbutz Malkiah, northern Israel, July 28, 2023. / Ayal Margolin/Flash90

“The biggest fear is that these provocations will eventually become an opportunity to harm IDF forces or civilians after the other side will get us used to the fact that it is staying close to the border fence,” Buskila continued.

According to UN Resolution 1701, Hezbollah is prohibited from entering Israeli territory in south Lebanon, and from carrying weapons. Buskilah articulated the IDF’s concern that Hezbollah agents would fire an anti-tank missile at a military vehicle or kidnap an IDF soldier, which would inevitably bring on a confrontation.

“This is what the security establishment is afraid of – should they respond to these provocations that are not yet violent or should Hezbollah’s activities be interrupted right now.”

The Kibbutz Malkiah plantation manager Amit Cohen believes violent provocations are already happening at the border. He told Ynet: “We don’t know yet if we’ll have to uproot the entire plantation, and we are waiting to see how the trees will react to the severe damage. The irrigation infrastructures in the plantation are very expensive, and they were completely burned. We replaced them over the weekend to water and restore the trees.”

On Friday, around 2:30 PM, Cohen received reports about thick smoke coming from the Lebanese border.
The fire crews and farmers fought for hours to prevent the spread of the fire and managed to reduce the extent of the damage.

One kibbutz member told Ynet: “We saw how the firefighters from Lebanon were in the field, on the other side of the border, and did nothing to prevent the fire from spreading to our territory, they only made sure that it did not get deeper on their side. This was a terrorist event by all accounts.”

Buskila was asked how serious was the expectation that Hezbollah would invade Israeli territory and responded: “This concern is real. Hezbollah explicitly said that this is one of their goals, they openly practice it and even broadcast it to their public and the media so that Israel would also know what they intend to do.

Part of their campaign is to deter the IDF from responding, and part is to terrorize Israeli citizens and the government with the threat of a surprise break through the fence, which will end in invading a home in Israel and taking hostages, or even taking over an entire settlement.”


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