Dozens of rockets pound north after IDF strike kills top Hezbollah arms dealer

No injuries in barrage; air defense systems intercept many projectiles that rained down hours after IDF targeted man said behind procuring ‘strategic and unique weapons’

Smoke trails left after the Iron Dome air defense system intercepted rockets fired at Israel from Lebanon, as seen from the northern city of Safed, May 23, 2024. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Smoke trails left after the Iron Dome air defense system intercepted rockets fired at Israel from Lebanon, as seen from the northern city of Safed, May 23, 2024. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces said Thursday some 30 projectiles were fired from Lebanon at northern towns in a barrage that came hours after a senior Hezbollah member, who was said to have procured “strategic and unique weapons” for the terror group, was killed in an Israeli strike.

It was the latest round in a simmering border conflict that threatens to boil over into a full-scale war.

According to the IDF, some of the projectiles were intercepted and others landed in open areas, and there were no injuries. The rockets sparked a bushfire in the Hula Valley region. Six firefighting crews were dispatched to try the blazes.

Hezbollah took responsibility for the attack, saying it fired Katyusha rockets at a military base in the north of the country near the city of Safed.

The IDF said air force jets attacked the launchers used to carry out the attack, “quickly closing the circle.”

Videos from northern Israel being posted online appear to show several rocket interceptions near the city of Safed and other areas.

Area residents also report hearing loud booms.

Rocket alarms were heard in several towns in the Galilee, stretching from Yaron and Avivim near the Lebanon border to Ayelet Hashahar, which sits over 10 kilometers (six miles) away from the frontier.

Alarms also went off in several towns in between, including Sde Eliezer, Alma, and Ruheinah, the IDF’s Homefront Command said.

The Upper Galilee Regional Council said in a message that no rockets impacted in Ayelet Hashahar after sirens sounded in the kibbutz, which is deeper inside Israel than attacks normally take place.

Later in the afternoon, a barrage of at least five rockets was launched from Lebanon at the Beit Hillel area in northern Israel, according to the IDF. One rocket struck near Maayan Baruch Junction. There were no reports of injuries.

Drone alerts that went off in Kiryat Shmona and other nearby areas were a false alarm, the army added, the second such scare during the morning.

Earlier, a source close to Iran-backed Hezbollah said one of its fighters was killed in an Israeli drone strike in southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah later announced the death of its member Muhammad Ali Nasser Farran, from Nabatieh, saying he was killed “on the road to Jerusalem,” its term for operatives slain in Israeli strikes. It did not provide information on his role.

The IDF confirmed carrying out the strike in Kafr Dajjal, close to Nabatieh. It said Farran was a “prominent” member of the terror group, responsible for the manufacturing and procurement of weapons.

Farran was involved in “the production of Hezbollah’s strategic and unique weapons.” Some of the facilities under his command were struck in recent months, it said.

The military added that the killing is part of the IDF’s activity to “cause a blow to the build-up of the Hezbollah terror organization with weapons designed to attack the Israeli home front.”

It published footage of the strike.

Lebanon’s official National News Agency had reported that a “drone targeted a car on the road leading to Nabatieh,” a city close to Lebanon’s border with Israel.

“The driver was killed,” it said, noting that three children in a nearby school bus were injured.

A member of the civil defense told AFP that the children received “light injuries as a result of the broken windows of the bus that was taking them to school” and that they were taken to a hospital.

On Monday the IDF said that it killed in an airstrike the commander of Hezbollah’s coastal rocket and missile unit. Qassem Saqlawi was targeted in a drone strike while driving in the Tyre area in southern Lebanon, the military said.

In another incident in the north, two suspects approaching the Israeli border in the northern Golan Heights were detained by soldiers, the IDF said. It said the suspects were tracked throughout the incident, and were detained before crossing the border fence with Syria.

The pair were taken for further questioning.

Since October 8, Hezbollah-led forces have attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the border on a near-daily basis, with the group saying it is doing so to support Gaza amid the war there that opened with the Palestinian terror group Hamas’s massive cross-border attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in 10 civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 14 IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 312 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 61 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and dozens of civilians have been killed.

The violence has raised fears of all-out conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, which last went to war in 2006.

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