Hezbollah drones downed off coast of Acre, Nahariya, after IDF strikes kill 2 operatives

After two top members killed in south Lebanon, Hezbollah claims to target army base with explosive-laden drones in one of its deepest attacks

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

A member of the Lebanese intelligence service stands at the site of an Israeli strike on a vehicle in the Aadloun plain area, between Lebanon's southern cities of Sidon and Tyre, on April 23, 2024. (Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)
A member of the Lebanese intelligence service stands at the site of an Israeli strike on a vehicle in the Aadloun plain area, between Lebanon's southern cities of Sidon and Tyre, on April 23, 2024. (Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)

Two top Hezbollah operatives were killed in Israeli airstrikes in southern Lebanon on Tuesday, as explosive-laden drones launched by the terror group were intercepted by air defenses over Israel’s northern coast.

A drone strike on southern Lebanon’s Aadloun, near the coastal city of Tyre, killed Hussein Azqul, who the Israel Defense Forces said was a “central terrorist” in Hezbollah’s air defense unit.

Azqul, according to the IDF, was “heavily involved in the activities of the [air defense unit] and took part in the planning and execution of a variety of terror activities.”

The military said his death was a “significant blow” to Hezbollah’s air defense unit.

Another overnight strike in southern Lebanon killed Muhammad Attiya, who the IDF said was a member of the aerial unit of Hezbollah’s elite Radwan force.

Attiya was “involved in the preparation and execution of terrorist attacks” against Israel, the military said.

Hezbollah confirmed the deaths of both Azqul and Attiya, saying they were killed “on the road to Jerusalem,” its term for operatives slain in Israeli strikes.

Their deaths brought the terror group’s toll amid the war in Gaza to 287.

Hours after the strikes, suspected drone infiltration sirens sounded in the northern cities of Nahriya, Acre and numerous other towns in the Krayot area, just north of Haifa.

The IDF said three “suspicious aerial targets” — believed to be explosive-laden drones — were successfully intercepted by air defenses over the sea, one off the coast of Nahariya and two near Acre.

A rocket siren that sounded in Acre was activated due to fears of falling shrapnel, the military said.

Hezbollah later claimed responsibility for launching several attack drones at northern Israel.

In a statement, Hezbollah said it targeted the Shraga army base, just north of Acre, close to the community of Lohamei HaGeta’ot. It would mark one of the deepest drone strikes attempted by the terror group amid the war.

Following the drone attack, Israeli fighter jets struck two buildings in southern Lebanon’s Ayta ash-Shab and Blida, where the IDF said Hezbollah operatives were gathered. Additional buildings used by Hezbollah in Markaba were also hit, the IDF added.

Earlier, the IDF said fighter jets struck a building used by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon’s Yaroun, alongside another site late Monday. The IDF added that troops struck in the same area on Tuesday morning to “remove a threat.”

Since October 8, Hezbollah and allied terror groups have attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the border on a daily basis with rockets, drones, anti-tank missiles and other means, saying it is doing so to support Gaza during the war there.

Israel has threatened to go to war to force Hezbollah away from the border if it does not retreat and continues to threaten northern communities, from where some 70,000 people were evacuated to avoid the fighting.

On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron held phone calls with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi to discuss ways of avoiding an escalation in the Middle East crisis, said France and Egypt.

The French presidency added that Macron had also reiterated to Netanyahu that France wanted an immediate and lasting ceasefire in Gaza and said Paris was working to ease tensions arising from clashes on the border between Israel and Lebanon.

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in eight civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 11 IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 287 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 54 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and at least 60 civilians, three of whom were journalists, have been killed.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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