Gallant warns warplanes’ noses are ‘pointed north,’ as IAF hammers Hezbollah sites

In tense day in north, IDF says fighter jets struck terror group’s rocket launching position, observation post; Iron Dome downs rockets fired at northern cities from Lebanon

File - Defense Minister Yoav Gallant tours Tel Nof Airbase in central Israel, February 4, 2024. (Defense Ministry)
File - Defense Minister Yoav Gallant tours Tel Nof Airbase in central Israel, February 4, 2024. (Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday warned Hezbollah that Israel has many offensive tools it could employ in Lebanon, as the IDF said it carried out a series of strikes on sites operated by the terror group in southern Lebanon throughout the day.

“We have not yet begun to activate all our units and all our special abilities. We have many elements ready,” Gallant said during a tour of Tel Nof airbase in central Israel. “The clear-cut instruction I gave the Air Force is to point the noses of our aircraft northward… we are prepared.”

The IDF said that targets hit by fighter jets in Blida and Mays al-Jabal on Sunday included a rocket launching position manned by Hezbollah operatives, and an observation post, adding that a tank also shelled a Hezbollah cell in Blida.

The IDF said troops also shelled the sources of rocket fire from Lebanon against north communities on Sunday. There were no reports of damage or injuries in the attacks, which were apparently carried out by Hezbollah.

Local authorities said that several rockets fired from Lebanon at the northern city of Kiryat Shmona were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, while others landed in open areas.

Sirens also sounded in the northern communities of Metula and Tel Hai, among others, throughout the day. In the morning, there were a number of sirens close to the border that the IDF later said were false alarms.

Earlier Sunday, Hezbollah named two more members killed in recent Israeli strikes on its sites in southern Lebanon.

A photo taken from the area of Marjayoun in southern Lebanon shows smoke billowing from the Israeli village of Metula after being targeted by shelling from Lebanon on January 31, 2024. (AFP)

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, while the war has been raging there since the Hamas terror group’s October 7 massacre.

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

Hezbollah named 179 members who were killed by Israel during the ongoing fighting, mostly in Lebanon, but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 22 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and at least 19 civilians, three of whom were journalists, have been killed.

Mourners shout anti-Israel slogans, as they carry the coffin of senior Hezbollah commander Wissam Tawil during his funeral procession in the village of Khirbet Selm, south Lebanon, January 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

On Saturday, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said three troop divisions had been deployed to the northern border, issuing a strident warning to Hezbollah, while detailing strikes that Israel says have killed hundreds of terror operatives seeking to enflame the restive border.

The comments included rare acknowledgement of dozens of airstrikes inside Syria against the terror group. Hagari said the IDF is working to “reshape the security reality” on the northern border to allow some 80,000 Israelis displaced by months of incessant attacks to return home.

Israel will be “ready to attack immediately” if provoked, Hagari warned. “We do not choose war as our first priority, but we are certainly prepared.”

According to Hagari, since fighting on the northern border began in the wake of Hamas’s October 7 onslaught, the IDF has targeted more than 3,400 Hezbollah sites and struck more than 150 cells, killing some 200 operatives, mostly members of Hezbollah.

Among the targets hit included some 120 observation posts, 40 weapons depots, and 40 command centers manned by Hezbollah members, along with more significant sites such as an airstrip used by Hezbollah to launch drones and a weapons depot storing anti-aircraft missiles, Hagari said.

During the press conference, Hagari aired rare footage showing a strike on a Hezbollah cell in southern Syria last month.

“We will continue to act wherever Hezbollah is present, we will continue to act wherever it is required in the Middle East. What is true for Lebanon is true for Syria, and is true for other more distant places,” Hagari added.

War erupted in Gaza with Hamas’s October 7 massacres, which saw around 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel, killing some 1,200 people and seizing over 250 hostages, mostly civilians, many amid horrific acts of brutality.

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

On Friday, Gallant said that a potential pause in the war in Gaza being negotiated between Israel and Hamas would not apply to Hezbollah, which halted attacking Israel for a week in November during an earlier truce.

“If Hezbollah thinks that when there’s a pause in fighting in the south, we will hold fire against it, it’s sorely mistaken,” the defense minister said after meeting troops from the IDF’s Alpine Unit on Mount Hermon, according to a statement from his office.

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