As rockets fly at north, Gallant says Israel nearing military option against Hezbollah

Damage caused to home, store in Kiryat Shmona in attack claimed by Lebanese terror group; defense minister warns daily fire risks ‘dragging parties to dangerous escalation’

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

US envoy Amos Hochstein, left, meets with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv on March 5, 2024. (Shachar Yurman/Defense Ministry)
US envoy Amos Hochstein, left, meets with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv on March 5, 2024. (Shachar Yurman/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Tuesday told the United States special envoy to the region, Amos Hochstein, that Hezbollah’s continued attacks on Israel were bringing the country closer to a decision regarding military action in Lebanon, as the terror group launched fired fresh rockets and missiles at the north.

“We are committed to the diplomatic process. However, Hezbollah’s aggression is bringing us closer to a critical point in the decision-making regarding our military activities in Lebanon,” Gallant said, according to a readout provided by his office.

During the meeting at Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv, Gallant also warned Hochstein that Hezbollah was “dragging the parties to a dangerous escalation,” his office said.

According to the readout, Gallant and Hochstein spoke about Hezbollah’s daily rocket, missile, and drone attacks, as well as efforts to reach an agreement that would see the Iran-backed terror group withdraw from the border and end the hostilities, to enable some 80,000 displaced residents of northern Israel to return to their homes.

During a meeting in Beirut on Monday, Hochstein said that a war between Israel and Hezbollah would not be containable, and added that the US was optimistic about restoring stability in southern Lebanon and northern Israel.

Underlining the threat in the north, rocket sirens sounded in several towns near the border moments after Gallant’s office published its statement on his meeting with Hochstein, with two projectiles striking Kiryat Shmona.

Damage caused to a home in the northern city of Kiryat Shmona from a rocket launched by Hezbollah in Lebanon, March4, 2024. (Kiryat Shmona Municipality)

Police and the Kiryat Shmona municipality said that damage was caused to property in the rocket attack — one projectile hit a home and another struck a clothes store — but that there were no reports of injuries. The city has largely been evacuated due to the terror group’s daily attacks.

Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the rocket strike, as well as eight other attacks on northern Israel, including rocket fire at an IDF base near the border community of Zarit.

Footage showed a cloud of black smoke rising from an area near the border following the claimed attack on the IDF base.

The IDF later said it had carried out airstrikes on a series of Hezbollah targets in south Lebanon.

Among the targets was a Hezbollah compound in Ayta ash-Shab that the IDF said was used to fire two anti-tank missiles at the Biranit army base earlier on Tuesday. No injuries were caused in the attack, the IDF said.

The IDF said it also struck a Hezbollah command center in Jabal al-Batam, rocket launch positions in Matmoura, and buildings used by the terror group in Majdal Zoun, Houla, and Kafra.

In Houla, four civilians were killed by an Israeli airstrike, a Lebanese security source told the UK-based Qatari outlet Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

Israel has been bracing for war with Hezbollah since October 7, when its allied terror group Hamas started a war by launching an unprecedented attack on the south of Israel in which terrorists killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped 253.

Since October 8, Hezbollah-led forces have attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the northern border with rockets, missiles, and drones on a near-daily basis, with the group saying it is doing so to support Gaza amid the war there.

An Israeli warplane in the sky after an Israeli air strike in southern Lebanon, as it seen from the Israeli side of the border, March 3, 2024. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in seven civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 10 IDF soldiers and reservists. Other attacks from Syria and Iraq have not caused any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 232 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 37 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and at least 30 civilians, three of whom were journalists, have been killed.

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