Gallant warns of potential ‘hot summer’ in north, as Hezbollah attacks IDF post

Military strikes dozens of terror group’s sites across southern Lebanon; defense minister vows displaced residents will be able to go home safely, hints at possible escalation

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

Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the southern Lebanese village of Kfarkila near the border on May 8, 2024. (Rabih DAHER / AFP)
Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the southern Lebanese village of Kfarkila near the border on May 8, 2024. (Rabih DAHER / AFP)

The Hezbollah terror group claimed responsibility Wednesday for launching anti-tank guided missiles and mortars from Lebanon at what it said was a military position in the area of the northern border community of Malkia.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed at least two projectiles were fired from Lebanon at the Malkia area, but did not immediately release information on possible casualties.

Speaking to troops in northern Israel on Wednesday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vowed to return the tens of thousands of Israelis displaced by Hezbollah’s attacks back to their homes, saying “it could be a hot summer,” hinting at the possibility of an escalation on the northern border.

Earlier, the IDF said fighter jets and artillery forces struck more than 20 Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon’s Ramyeh.

The targets included buildings used by Hezbollah and additional infrastructure, according to the military.

The IDF said it identified secondary blasts after the strikes, indicating the sites were used to store munitions.

Additional Hezbollah sites were struck in Marwahin and Kafr Kila, the military added.

Later in the day, the IDF said it struck a building belonging to Hezbollah’s elite Radwan force in southern Lebanon’s Jabal Rezlane. At the same time, fighter jets also hit additional buildings belonging to Hezbollah in Khiam, Odaisseh, Blida, Maroun al-Ras, and Ayta ash-Shab, the IDF added.

The IDF also said it carried out strikes against Hezbollah positions in six different areas of southern Lebanon overnight, including buildings used by the terror group in Kafr Kila, Ayta ash-Shab, Khiam and Maroun al-Ras, as well as other infrastructure in Houla and Aitaroun.

The IDF added that troops attacked areas near Tayr Harfa and Jebbayn to “remove threats.”

On Wednesday, Hezbollah announced the death of two members, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad announced the deaths of three members in Israeli strikes in southern Lebanon.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks to troops in northern Israel, May 8, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Gallant told artillery reservists of the 91st Division: “We have pushed Hezbollah away from the lines of contact to significant distances, but this does not mean that they have disappeared.

“To return residents safely, an agreement process or an operational process is needed. I am determined to return the residents to their homes safely and to rebuild the things that were destroyed,” Gallant said.

“We have very significant, very heavy firepower, and we will make sure to activate it if there is a need and a reason,” he said, referring to the possibility that Israel will go to war to force Hezbollah away from the border.

“You have proven yourselves until today, I think, in an impressive way,” he told the soldiers. “Now you have to prepare for the upcoming [missions], and this summer could be a hot summer.”

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.

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in nine civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 13 IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 291 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 59 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier and at least 60 civilians, three of whom were journalists, have been killed.

File: Smoke billows following an Israeli airstrike in the area of the southern Lebanese village of Adaisseh near the border with Israel on May 5, 2024 (Rabih DAHER / AFP)

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 have been evacuated to avoid the fighting.

Separately, late Tuesday a “suspicious aerial target” — thought to be a drone — heading toward Israel from the eastern direction was intercepted by air defenses outside of Israeli airspace, near the southernmost city of Eilat, the IDF said.

The incident came as the Iran-backed Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed to have launched a drone at Eilat.

It marked the third night in a row that a drone apparently launched from Iraq was shot down by the IDF.

Amid the war, several drones have been launched at Israel by Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria. Iran itself also carried out an unprecedented attack on Israel last month with hundreds of drones and missiles.

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