© UnknownIsraeli War Planes
Security source says Jewish state taking steps ahead of anniversary of Mughniyeh killing

Beirut - Israel ratcheted up its activities close to the Blue Line Monday, violating Lebanese airspace, according to reports from the south.

Reports also suggested Israel was bolstering its border patrols in the region from which two of its soldiers were abducted by Hezbollah in 2006, sparking the devastating month-long war which followed.

"Israeli war drones have been flying over Nabatiyeh, Iqlim Al-Toufah and Khiyam, all in south Lebanon, since 11 a.m. Monday," the National News Agency reported.

A spokesperson for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon told The Daily Star that UNIFIL "had not reported any violation" of Lebanese territory by Israeli patrols in recent weeks.

The Central News Agency, quoting an unidentified security source, said Israel had stepped up its maneuvers close to the Blue Line in anticipation of the anniversary of the assassination of Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughnieh, who was killed in an attack in Damascus in 2008 which the party blames on Israel.

"Security sources declared having observed movements of Israeli patrols in the Israeli side facing the border towns of Ramya and Aayta al-Shaab," the CNA said. "The patrols were accompanied by shots fired from machine guns in Khillet Warde and the vicinity of Israeli Area 716 inside Israeli territories.

"The source added that Israel was taking precautionary security measures on the border for the third anniversary of the martyrdom of Hizbullah military commander Imad Mughnieh," it said.

The CNA said that the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL had begun patrols on the northern side of the Blue Line with Mughnieh's anniversary in mind.

Israel's Counter Terrorism Unit issued a travel warning last week advising its nationals to avoid travel to the Egyptian Sinai and areas of the Caucasus in order to avoid becoming targets of retributive attacks.

A Lebanese Army communiqué issued Monday said that "an Israeli gunboat shot two flare bombs at 1.2 mile distance inside Lebanese regional waters" Sunday morning.

Last week, Lebanon complained to the Security Council over two January incidents in which it is alleged Israeli troops crossed over the Blue Line - the boundary of Israeli military withdrawal from Lebanon - into Lebanese territory.

Elnashra news website reported Monday that recent incidents in the regions of Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shuba represented violations of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, drafted in the wake of the 2006 hostilities, but accused UNIFIL of denying that Israel had breached international law.

Skirmishes across the de facto border have continued in spite of the cessation of fighting between Hezbollah and Israel. Last month a third Lebanese shepherd in 12 months was apprehended by Israel's military and Lebanon still blames Israel for the deadly exchange of fire at Adaysseh village in August 2010.

The CNA reported that up to 50 percent of the Blue Line had now been visibly demarcated - an action that the U.N. often declares vital in order to avoid fresh conflict.

M.P. Qassem Hashem said that Lebanon would not agree to demarcate any border in the regions of Kfar Shuba and Shebaa Farms as the territory there was still disputed. "Lebanon cannot admit to a Blue Line within the occupied Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shuba hills because it would be an acknowledgment of the occupation of Lebanese territories," Hashem said.