JERUSALEM, (AFP) – An Israeli official on Thursday warned of the danger of Hezbollah gaining influence over Lebanon’s army just days after a deadly exchange of fire along the border left four people dead.
“There is a danger of the Hezbollisation of the Lebanese army, if the army begins to behave like Hezbollah,” Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told public radio referring to the Lebanese Shiite militia group.
“If Hezbollah manages to take control of the army, we will have to treat (the army) in a completely different manner,” he said.
Top Israeli officials have said that Hezbollah was not involved in Tuesday’s deadly exchange of fire with the Lebanese army, and have for the most part sought to play down the confrontation as an isolated incident.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the clashes, which killed two Lebanese soldiers and a journalist as well as a senior Israeli officer, were “a very grave provocation” but hastened to add that it was not planned by the Lebanese army.
“Tuesday’s incident was not programmed by the chiefs of staff of the Lebanese army in Beirut or by Hezbollah,” he said on Wednesday.
The Israeli military believes the incident was caused by a radical Lebanese army officer who was not acting on orders from higher-ups, defence experts said.