Explosive Hezbollah drone injures troops, rockets pound north as fighting heats up

One soldier seriously injured, two others lightly hurt in attack near Metula; two Hezbollah members killed in strike on car in southern Lebanon amid heavy cross-border fire

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

A picture taken from southern Lebanon shows smoke rising above the northern Israeli town of Metula following a strike from the Lebanese side on May 16, 2024. (Rabih Daher / AFP)
A picture taken from southern Lebanon shows smoke rising above the northern Israeli town of Metula following a strike from the Lebanese side on May 16, 2024. (Rabih Daher / AFP)

Three soldiers were injured, one seriously, when a drone packed with explosives launched from Lebanese territory crashed and blew up in an area near the northern community of Metula, the Israeli military said Thursday.

The attack was claimed by the Hezbollah terror group, which said it had targeted Israel Defense Forces targets with a missile-armed drone, as cross-border hostilities continued to spiral following the killing of a senior Hezbollah field commander earlier this week.

One of the troops was hospitalized in serious condition, the military said, and the other two were lightly hurt as a result of the blast.

Hezbollah said it had fired an “attack drone carrying two S5 rockets” that targeted a vehicle at a position in Metula.

It marked the first time Hezbollah has used a drone that launches missiles, rather than explosive-laden aircraft which it has used repeatedly amid the war.

Footage published by the terror group showed the drone flying over the army position near Metula, before it launched the two S5 rockets. Moments later, the drone is seen crashing and exploding in the area.

The IDF said it was investigating the incident, which came hours after Hezbollah fired dozens of rockets at the Golan Heights in two separate barrages.

The terror group claimed that it had fired some 60 Katyusha rockets at three military bases in the Golan Heights area, setting off rocket warning sirens throughout the area, although the IDF said that the number of rockets that crossed the border in the attack was closer to 40 and that the Iron Dome system had intercepted some of the rockets.

Rockets leave smoke trails behind as they are launched from southern Lebanon toward Israel on May 16, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border clashes between Israeli troops and Hezbollah. (Photo by AFP)

The military also said that the repeated sirens that sounded in the evacuated northern border community of Zar’it were triggered by five projectiles launched from Lebanon.

No injuries were reported as a result of either the rocket barrages or the projectiles.

Across the border, the IDF said it carried out a drone strike on a vehicle with two Hezbollah operatives in it, near the southern Lebanon towns of Qana and Seddiqine. Lebanese media reports said two people were killed in the strike and Hezbollah named two operatives killed while engaged in operations targeting Israel.

A smoke plume rises over athe southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila during Israeli bombardment on May 16, 2024. (Photo by Rabih Daher / AFP)

According to the IDF, the pair had been “en route to carrying out an immediate terror attack” against Israel.

The army also carried out over a dozen airstrikes on Hezbollah positions around southern Lebanon throughout the day, including a rocket launcher, an observation post in Mays al-Jabal,  and a number of buildings where operatives were gathered, the IDF said.

It released video footage showing some of the strikes.

The deaths of the two Hezbollah operatives brought the number of terror group members killed to 300 since Hezbollah started attacking Israel in solidarity with Hamas in Gaza on October 8.

In Israel, rocket and drone warning sirens continued to sound in towns across the Galilee Thursday afternoon as the attacks persisted.

In the Western Galilee, footage posted to social media purported to show at least one heavy rocket impact near Shlomi. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The latest exchange of fire came after Hezbollah managed to hit a sensitive military facility in the Lower Galilee with an explosive drone on Wednesday, hitting deeper inside Israeli territory than it has in years.

That attack was launched after a top Hezbollah field commander, Hussein Ibrahim Makki, was killed in an IDF drone strike late Tuesday.

The Iran-backed terror group claimed it had launched the explosive-laden drones at an Israeli Air Force base, where a giant missile-detecting blimp, known as Sky Dew, is operated.

Rockets fired from southern Lebanon are intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system over the Golan Heights on May 16, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border clashes between Israeli troops and Hezbollah. (Photo by Jalaa MAREY / AFP)

The base is located near Golani Junction, some 35 kilometers (21 miles) from the Lebanon border.

The IDF confirmed on Thursday morning that one of Hezbollah’s drones had hit a sensitive military facility in the area of Golani Junction, but said air defenses had downed a second drone.

In response to the attack, the Israeli Air Force carried out overnight strikes in the Hezbollah stronghold of Baalbek, some 100 kilometers from the border.

A picture taken from Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel shows an Israeli fighter jet firing a flare over southern Lebanon on May 16, 2024. (Menahem Kahana / AFP)

The military said that the strikes targeted a Hezbollah weapons manufacturing plant, used to build guided munitions and drones, according to military assessments.

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.

The terror group has escalated its attacks in recent weeks as the IDF began operating in Rafah, and seized control of the southernmost city’s border crossing shared with Egypt.

So far, the skirmishes on Israel’s northern border have resulted in ten 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.

In Lebanon, another 60 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and at least 60 civilians, three of whom were journalists, have been killed.

Times of Israel Staff and Agencies contributed to this report.

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