Two other troops lightly wounded, pair of Thai workers hurt

IDF drones hit Hezbollah terror squads amid uptick in attacks; soldier seriously hurt

Military responds to Iran-backed terror group assaults on northern border with artillery shelling, drone strikes; IDF soldier killed by Lebanon missile; Gallant meets with troops

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

A shell from Israeli artillery explodes over a house in al-Bustan, a Lebanese border village with Israel, south Lebanon, Oct. 15, 2023. (AP/Hussein Malla)
A shell from Israeli artillery explodes over a house in al-Bustan, a Lebanese border village with Israel, south Lebanon, Oct. 15, 2023. (AP/Hussein Malla)

An Israeli soldier was seriously wounded and two others were lightly hurt in a Hezbollah missile attack from Lebanon on Saturday near the northern community of Bar’am, as the Iran-backed Lebanese terror group continues to attack Israel two weeks into a war with the Palestinian terror group Hamas in Gaza following its shock onslaught on October 7.

In a separate attack by Hezbollah, two foreign workers from Thailand were wounded by shrapnel in the area of Margaliot, another community in northern Israel.

One of the Thai workers, 35, was in moderate condition after sustaining an injury to his chest, and the other was lightly hurt, the Magen David Adom paramedic services said. Both were taken to hospital for treatment.

Israel responded with a drone strike against the anti-tank guided missile squad in southern Lebanon that launched the missile at Margaliot, the military said, releasing footage of the strike. A clip published by Lebanese media outlets showed a car burning in the southern village of Houla.

The Israel Defense Forces said it also carried out a drone strike against two other terror squads in southern Lebanon preparing anti-tank guided missile attacks. The IDF published footage of the strikes against the groups, one near the Mount Dov area and the other near the community of Shlomi.

Early Sunday, the announced it struck a Hezbollah position from which an anti-aircraft missile was launched at an Israeli drone. The IDF sajd the missile was intercepted by air defenses, and the military drone was not damaged.

The military also said fighter jets struck a series of Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon in response to the missile attacks claimed by Hezbollah earlier Saturday.

Recent days have seen repeated clashes between the Israeli military and the Hezbollah terror group and allied Palestinian factions in southern Lebanon, amid fears a new front could be opened as Israel continues its war with Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

The Hezbollah terror group has claimed responsibility for several missile attacks on IDF positions and Israeli towns on Saturday and over the past two weeks, amid concerns in Israel of a northern front opening in the war with Hamas in the south.

Israel has been responding to the attacks on its northern border.

Troop responded with artillery shelling after an anti-tank guided missile was fired from Lebanon at the area near the northern town of Bar’am, with no immediate information on possible casualties.

The military also responded with artillery fire at the source of a missile launch launched from Lebanon at the Hanita area Saturday.

In an earlier drone strike, the IDF said it hit a cell launching rockets from Lebanon at the Mount Dov area on the border. It published a video showing the drone strike against the rocket-launching terror cell in southern Lebanon.

A separate video released by the IDF on Saturday showed a Hezbollah observation post in southern Lebanon struck by members of the IDF’s elite Maglan unit. The military said that one of its tanks shelled another Hezbollah post in the area in response to the recent missile attacks.

Earlier Saturday, the military announced that an Israeli reserve soldier had been killed on Friday night in an anti-tank missile attack against troops operating in the Netu’a and Biranit areas on the northern border.

Hezbollah claimed responsibility.

Staff Sgt. (res.) Omer Balva (Israel Defense Forces)

The soldier was named as Staff Sgt. (res.) Omer Balva, 22, a commander in the 9203rd Battalion of the Alexandroni Brigade, from Herzliya. Balva was a dual Israeli-American citizen. A child of Israeli parents, he grew up in Rockville, Maryland, where he went to the Charles E. Smith Jewish day school.

He went to Israel to serve in the IDF, but was in the US last week when called into reserve service, promptly flying back to Israel to report for duty.

The IDF said it carried out a number of strikes overnight targeting Hezbollah sites. Three other soldiers were hurt.

Touring the northern border Saturday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that the Lebanese terror group has been paying “a heavy price” for its missile, rocket and shooting attacks against Israeli military sites, troops and Israeli towns in northern Israel in recent days.

“Hezbollah has decided to participate in the fighting. We are exacting a heavy price from it,” Gallant said to troops at the 91st territorial division base, at the Biranit camp on the Lebanon border.

“I assume that the challenges will be greater [than they are now], and you have to take this into account, to be ready like a [coiled] spring for any situation,” he added to the forces.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks to soldiers at the Biranit camp on the Lebanon border, October 21, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

On Saturday evening, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Lebanese Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati to reiterate “the importance of respecting the interests of the Lebanese people, who would be affected by Lebanon being drawn into the conflict instigated by Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel,” according to a US readout.

Blinken noted concern over rising tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border and “expressed his condolences to the families of Lebanese civilians who have tragically lost their lives as a result of the conflict, underscoring continued US support for the Lebanese Armed Forces and Internal Security Forces, the sole legitimate guarantors of Lebanon’s stability and territorial integrity,” the US readout said.

Hezbollah has fired dozens of anti-tank guided missiles, rockets and mortars at Israeli military positions and Israeli towns since the October 7 Hamas onslaught, while also sending gunmen — some affiliated with Palestinian terror groups — to infiltrate into northern Israel. Several drones have also been intercepted over northern Israel.

The tit-for-tat attacks have so far remained limited in scope, amid threats from Israel that Lebanon could suffer if Hezbollah steps up its attacks.

At least six Israeli soldiers, 19 Hezbollah terrorists and six Palestinian terrorists have been killed in the exchanges. One Israeli civilian was killed in a Hezbollah attack, and several Lebanese civilians and a journalist were also reported killed by Israeli shelling.

The attacks from Lebanon have come as Israel is waging war in Gaza against Hamas after the terror group’s murderous assault on the country on October 7, in which some 1,400 people were killed, mostly civilians, and more than 200 were kidnapped and taken to the Strip.

On Friday, a gunman opened fire at Israeli troops operating near the northern town of Margaliot, on the Lebanon border, seriously wounding one. The gunman was killed several hours later in another exchange of fire in the area.

The IDF said it also foiled plans by six terror cells in southern Lebanon on Friday, carrying out drone strikes and sniper fire against squads preparing missile attacks, gunmen, and other members of Hezbollah identified near the border.

Also Friday, the IDF said some 20-30 rockets were launched from Lebanon toward the contested Mount Dov area — where there are a number of military positions and no towns — and two rockets were fired at the northern town of Metula. Anti-tank-guided missiles were also fired at several IDF posts, and gunfire targeted Israeli surveillance equipment on the border.

Smoke rises following an Israeli artillery strike in al-Bustan, a Lebanese border village with Israel, south Lebanon, Oct. 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Also on Friday night, the IDF said it intercepted a “target” — believed to be a drone — that was heading toward Israeli airspace from Lebanon. The IDF said the object did not manage to enter Israeli airspace.

On Friday morning, the military ordered the evacuation of Kiryat Shmona amid escalating tensions on the northern border. The city has a population of some 22,000 residents, though many have already left. On Thursday, three residents were injured by a rocket strike on a home in what appeared to be the most serious attack on the city since 2006.

Earlier this week, the Defense Ministry’s National Emergency Management Authority began working to evacuate all communities within two kilometers of the Lebanon border. The 28 towns and villages have an estimated 27,000 residents.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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