IDF hits Hezbollah and Iranian 'military asset' in response

Hezbollah fires rocket barrage at Israel, causes slight damage to key IDF base

Terror group says strike on air traffic control base is in response to ‘recent assassinations and repeated attacks on civilians’ in Lebanon and Syria; no injuries

Smoke billows over the southern Lebanese village of Shihine on the border with Israel during an Israeli airstrike on January 22, 2024. (Kawnat Haju/AFP)
Smoke billows over the southern Lebanese village of Shihine on the border with Israel during an Israeli airstrike on January 22, 2024. (Kawnat Haju/AFP)

The Hezbollah terror group on Tuesday caused slight damage to a sensitive Israel Defense Forces air traffic control base in northern Israel with a barrage of rockets and missiles.

The Iran-backed Lebanese terror group said the attacks were in response to “recent assassinations and repeated attacks on civilians” in Lebanon and Syria.

It said it had launched a “large number” of missiles at the Mount Meron base, in its second such attack in recent weeks.

The IDF confirmed the attack, saying slight damage was caused to the base’s infrastructure.

According to the IDF, several of the projectiles fired by Hezbollah were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, but some struck the base, which is located some eight kilometers (5 miles) from the Lebanon border.

No injuries were caused in the strike on the Mount Meron base, the IDF said, adding that the incident was under further investigation.

The IDF said it has backup systems to ensure that the air traffic control base continues to operate, saying “there is no damage to the Air Force’s detection capabilities.”

Later Tuesday, the IDF said it struck a “military asset” belonging to Hezbollah and Iranian forces in Lebanon, in response to the attack on the Meron base.

In a statement, the IDF said fighter jets destroyed “a military asset used by the Hezbollah terror organization and operated by Iranian forces.”

Other Hezbollah targets were hit in southern Lebanon, the IDF added.

Hezbollah’s first attack on the base on January 6 came in response to the killing of Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri in a strike in Beirut widely blamed on Israel. In recent days there have been several strikes in Lebanon and Syria that have killed top Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iranian officers. Israel has not taken responsibility for them.

This image from video shows a Hezbollah anti-tank guided missile hitting a radar dome at an Israeli Air Force air traffic control base on Mount Meron, January 6, 2024. (Screenshot: Telegram)

In the January 6 attack, the IDF admitted damage was caused to the base.

The IDF did not elaborate on the damage to the base then, but according to footage published by the terror group, two radar domes were hit by anti-tank guided missiles.

In Tuesday’s barrage, at least 15 rockets targeted sites in Israel near the border, Channel 12 reported. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The Israel Electric Corporation said electricity had gone down in the Meron area, but it had been able to remotely restore power to nearby residents. In the past Hezbollah has targeted and killed electric workers trying to restore supply after attacks.

Since October 8, Hezbollah-led forces have attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the border on a near-daily basis, with the Iran-backed terror group saying it is doing so to support Gaza amid Israel’s war with the Hamas terror group.

The attacks have led to mass evacuations of nearly all residents in towns near the border.

So far, the skirmishes on the 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.

Israel has repeatedly struck Hezbollah cells trying to launch attacks and also launched several waves of strikes, including on Monday, at the terror group’s infrastructure inside Lebanon, including observation posts and command centers.

Hezbollah has named 167 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 20 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and at least 19 civilians, three of whom were journalists, have been killed.

A Lebanese army officer stands next of a destroyed car in the southern town of Bazouriyeh, Lebanon, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024 after a suspected Israeli drone strike . (AP Photo/Mohammad Zaatari)

The continued violence along the border comes amid diplomatic efforts to avert a full-scale war, with Israel warning that it would be forced to move against Hezbollah with force if talks fail and saying that there is no other way to allow residents evacuated from northern border communities to return.

French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu held a series of meetings with Israeli leaders on Monday as part of the diplomatic push.

Lecornu told them that “concrete steps are under discussion… publicly, discreetly, and secretly” to prevent a war between Israel and Hezbollah, a French official told The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, meets with French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu in Jerusalem on January 22, 2024. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

“With 700 French troops deployed in UNIFIL, France is actively involved on the ground and will keep engaging towards a diplomatic solution along Israel’s northern border,” said the official. “The basis of such a solution lies in the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1701, on both sides.”

The resolution that ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War required Hezbollah be kept away from the border, but the Lebanese army and the UN have never enforced it.

Lecornu met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, war cabinet Minister Benny Gantz, and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi.

Gallant, meanwhile, told Lecornu, “A war in the north will be challenging for Israel, but devastating for Hezbollah and Lebanon. Israel will not cease fire until it can guarantee the safe return of the [evacuated] northern communities to their homes following a change in the security situation along the border.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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