Slain soldier named as Sgt. Amit Hod Ziv

Soldier killed, another seriously wounded in Hezbollah rocket barrage on north

Israeli jets, artillery hit terror targets in southern Lebanon in response to fire; IDF’s Hagari says Hezbollah ‘continues to endanger the future of the entire state of Lebanon’

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

Smoke billows after Israeli strikes over Lebanon's southern town of Kfar Kila near the border with Israel on December 21, 2023. (AFP)
Smoke billows after Israeli strikes over Lebanon's southern town of Kfar Kila near the border with Israel on December 21, 2023. (AFP)

Hezbollah fired a large barrage of rockets toward northern Israel on Friday morning, killing an Israeli soldier and seriously wounding another, as Israel warned that the terror group was endangering Lebanon’s future.

Some 20 rockets were fired from Lebanon at areas near the communities of Shomera and Shtula, close to the northern border.

The Israel Defense Forces later announced that a soldier was killed and another was seriously wounded by one of the rockets that hit a military position near Shtula.

The slain soldier was named as Sgt. Amit Hod Ziv, 19, of the 188th Armored Brigade’s 71st Battalion, from Rosh Haayin.

The wounded soldier, of the same unit, was hospitalized in serious condition, the IDF added.

In response to the rocket fire, responsibility for which was claimed by Hezbollah, the IDF said fighter jets carried out airstrikes against a series of sites belonging to the terror group in Lebanon.

Sgt. Amit Hod Ziv (Israel Defense Forces)

It said the targets included military compounds where Hezbollah members operated, and other infrastructure belonging to the terror group.

In addition, the military said it shelled the rocket launch sites with artillery.

On Thursday evening, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said that Iran-backed Hezbollah was putting Lebanon at risk.

“Hezbollah has turned southern Lebanon into a combat zone and continues to endanger the future of the entire state of Lebanon for Hamas and Iran,” he said.

“We will continue to work to distance Hezbollah from the border,” he said.

FILE – IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari speaks to the press at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP)

Israel has said it will no longer tolerate the presence of Hezbollah along the northern frontier after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, in which thousands of terrorists burst into Israel from Gaza, killing some 1,200 people and kidnapping over 240, mostly civilians.

Israel has increasingly warned that if the international community does not push Hezbollah forces away from its border through diplomatic means, it will take action.

In recent days, officials from the US and France visiting the region have sought to head off an escalation on the Lebanese front.

Hagari’s comments came hours after two Israeli civilians were wounded in an anti-tank missile attack from Lebanon on the northern town of Dovev, which occurred at the same time as another missile appeared to hit cars in the nearby community of Avivim.

Moments after the attack on Avivim and Dovev, a Home Front Command alert warned residents of other towns in the Upper Galilee of a suspected enemy drone infiltration.

A video showed what appears to be an interceptor missile exploding in the sky over the northern city of Safed, after the drone infiltration alert sounded in communities closer to the Lebanese border. Shortly after the blast, authorities gave the all-clear on the drone alarm.

Later, two anti-tank missiles were reported to have directly hit a home in Ramot Naftali, causing no injuries. A separate direct rocket hit was reported in Metula, also not causing casualties.

On Thursday afternoon, the IDF said it had carried out a new wave of airstrikes against Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon following the attacks on northern Israel.

It said the sites hit by fighter jets included rocket launch sites, military buildings and other infrastructure belonging to the terror group. Another site belonging to Hezbollah was targeted by aircraft, tanks, and artillery.

Additionally, the IDF said it shelled several areas along the border with artillery, presumably to prevent Hezbollah from carrying out attacks.

Several more rockets were fired from Lebanon at Arab al-Aramshe, but failed to cross the border, according to the IDF. It added that an aircraft struck the cell behind the launches.

Regarding the drone infiltration alarm that sounded earlier in the day, the IDF said it had identified a number of “aerial targets” that entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon.

It said an interceptor missile was fired during the incident, and “the event is over,” without elaborating further.

Israeli reserve soldiers take part in a drill in the Golan Heights, December 19, 2023 (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

Several rockets were fired by Hezbollah at the northern city of Kiryat Shmona late Wednesday, causing damage but no injuries. The Kiryat Shmona Municipality said the salvo included at least eight rockets, two of which landed in the city, causing damage to infrastructure, homes, a preschool and cars.

Since October 7, 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 four civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of eight IDF soldiers. There have also been several rocket attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 121 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 16 Palestinian terror operatives, a Lebanese soldier, and at least 17 civilians, three of whom were journalists, have been killed.

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