Gallant: Israel will increase strikes on Hezbollah even during potential Gaza truce

IDF hits multiple targets in Lebanon as well as a Hezbollah cell, amid continuing attacks on the north by the terrorist organization

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

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) speaks with IDF Northern Command chief Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin at the unit's HQ in Safed, February 25, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) speaks with IDF Northern Command chief Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin at the unit's HQ in Safed, February 25, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel would increase its strikes on Hezbollah in response to its daily attacks on northern Israel, including amid a potential temporary ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

“We are planning to increase the firepower against Hezbollah, which is unable to find replacements for the commanders we are eliminating,” Gallant said Sunday during a visit to the IDF Northern Command headquarters in Safed.

The defense minister emphasized that strikes on Hezbollah would continue even if Israel signed a hostage deal with Hamas, which would see a pause in fighting in Gaza and the release of Palestinian prisoners in return for freeing the hostages held in the Strip.

“In the event of a temporary truce in Gaza, we will increase the fire in the north, and will continue until the full withdrawal of Hezbollah [from the border] and the return of the residents to their homes,” he said, referring to some 80,000 Israelis displaced by Hezbollah’s attacks.

“The goal is simple — to push Hezbollah back to where it should be. Either by an agreement or by force,” Gallant added.

Earlier in the day, the IDF said it struck a Hezbollah cell that was spotted coming out of a building known to be used by the terror group in the south Lebanon town of Blida.

This picture taken from a position near the border in northern Israel shows smoke billowing during Israeli strikes on the village of Khiam in southern Lebanon on February 8, 2024 in response to Hezbollah anti-tank missile fire (Jalaa Marey / AFP)

Another two buildings were struck by fighter jets in the same area, the IDF added.

The IDF also said that it had earlier intercepted a “suspicious aerial target” that entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon, in the Galilee panhandle.

It also shelled rocket launch sites in south Lebanon following attacks on Mount Dov, Kiryat Shmona, Menara and Malkia.

Hezbollah said that four of its terrorists were killed in the Israeli strikes on Sunday, bringing the group’s death toll since the beginning of the war in Gaza to 214.

The war began on October 7 with Hamas’s unprecedented attack on Israel’s south in which terrorists murdered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped 253 others.

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 against Hamas there.

A Hezbollah drone is seen near Acre in northern Israel, February 20, 2024. (Screenshot: X)

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

Israel has warned that it will no longer tolerate the presence of Hezbollah along the Lebanon frontier, where it could attempt to carry out an attack similar to the massacre committed by Hamas on October 7.

A failure of international diplomacy to force Hezbollah away from the border would necessitate an Israeli offensive, the country has said.

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