The deputy chief of Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah movement on Sunday dismissed the prospect of an escalation of violence between the Iran-backed movement and Israel despite increased tensions in the last week.
A man rides a motorbike past a portrait of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, near Sidon, Lebanon, July 7, 2020. (Photo: CGTN)
"The atmosphere does not indicate a war ... It's unlikely, the atmosphere of war in the next few months," Sheikh Naim Qassem said in an interview with pro-Damascus television station al Mayadeen. "There is no change of rules of engagement, and the deterrent equation with Israel exists, and we are not planning to change it."
The Israeli military has boosted its forces on its northern front as tensions rose along Israel's frontier with Syria and Lebanon after an operative from Hezbollah was killed in an apparent Israeli strike on the edge of Damascus last week.
Earlier on Sunday, the Israeli military said an Israeli drone crashed inside Lebanon during operational activity along the border, adding that no intelligence could have been leaked in the incident.
According to Israeli media's reporting, the drone crashed after it experienced a technical failure.
Qassem's comment comes after Israel reportedly sent a message to Hezbollah saying it did not intend to kill the operative and it also did not have knowledge of Hezbollah's presence in the area. But a warning against any military response was also contained in the same massage.
After two Hezbollah members were killed in Damascus in August 2019, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah vowed the group would respond if Israel killed any more of its fighters inside Syria.
Analysts say Hezbollah and Israel want to avoid an all-out conflict at a time of regional tensions and keep rules of engagement drawn up since the Iran-backed movement fought a one-month war with Israel in 2006.
In recent months, Israel has stepped up strikes on Syria in what Western intelligence sources say is a shadow war approved by Washington that has undermined Iran's military power in the region without triggering a significant increase in hostilities.
Hezbollah has deployed fighters in Syria as part of Iranian-backed efforts to support President Bashar al-Assad in a conflict that started in 2011.
The bases in eastern, central and southern Syria, which Israel has hit in recent months, are believed to have a strong presence of Iranian-backed militias, according to intelligence sources and military defectors familiar with the locations.