Hezbollah shells north with 40 rockets after operative killed in IDF drone strike

US intel reportedly expects war in north in next few weeks if Gaza ceasefire not reached; no injuries in terror group’s attacks

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

Rockets intercepted over the northern city of Safed, June 27, 2024. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Rockets intercepted over the northern city of Safed, June 27, 2024. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Hezbollah launched a barrage of some 40 rockets at northern Israel on Thursday afternoon, in what the terror group said was a response to recent Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon, including the killing of one of its operatives earlier in the day.

The exchange of fire came as American intelligence expected a major escalation between Israel and Hezbollah in the coming weeks in the absence of a ceasefire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Politico reported.

An unnamed senior US official told the outlet that the risk of war is higher than it has been for weeks. The officials said that a major attack by either side, which could spark a war, could happen with “little notice.”

Amid travel warnings from Washington and several European countries, two senior officials who spoke to Politico said the start date of a war was unclear, but that Israel was acquiring arms and building up forces quickly.

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces said most of the rockets fired in the major barrage at the northern city of Safed and nearby communities were downed by the Iron Dome air defense system.

Police said that some of the rockets caused damage to property, and the Fire and Rescue Service said it was working to extinguish fires sparked by the attack.

Rockets fired from southern Lebanon by Hezbollah are intercepted by the Iron Dome over the Upper Galilee on June 27, 2024. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

Sirens had sounded in Safed and several towns in the Galilee amid the barrage, which Hezbollah claimed responsibility for.

In a statement, the terror group claimed to have launched dozens of Katyusha rockets at Israeli military bases in the Galilee.

It said that the attack was a response to recent Israeli strikes in southern Lebanon, including one earlier on Thursday in the town of Sohor that killed one of the terror group’s operatives, and an alleged strike in Nabatieh on Wednesday night.

The drone strike Sohmor, located in the Western Beqaa District about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Israeli border, killed Hezbollah operative Ali al-Din.

The IDF said al-Din was a member of Hezbollah’s aerial forces, behind drone attacks on northern Israel.

A separate drone strike on Thursday killed two Hezbollah operatives in southern Lebanon’s at-Tiri, the military said.

The IDF also said that fighter jets struck a building used by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon’s Ramyeh, Houla, and Aitaroun on Thursday. It added that troops also shelled areas in southern Lebanon with artillery.

The terror group later announced the deaths of three members in Israeli strikes in southern Lebanon.

Earlier Thursday, two explosive-laden drones launched by Hezbollah at the Western Galilee struck areas near Rosh Hanikra, the military said.

The IDF said there were no injuries in the attack. Hezbollah took responsibility, claiming to have targeted an Israeli Navy base.

Drone infiltration sirens had sounded in Rosh Hanikra and several nearby towns amid the incident.

Meanwhile, the IDF announced that troops carried out exercises this past week simulating fighting in Lebanon, which the military said were part of the Northern Command’s efforts to increase readiness amid the heightened tensions on the northern border.

Israeli troops take part in a drill in northern Israel, in a handout image published June 27, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Golani Brigade’s 12th Brigade, which has been operating in the Mount Dov and Mount Hermon areas on the northern border, carried out a drill simulating fighting in complex terrain, the military said.

Another drill, carried out by the 55th Reserve Paratroopers Brigade, practiced various combat scenarios, including movement in complex terrain and advancing along a “mountainous route,” the IDF said.

The exercises come amid daily attacks by the Hezbollah terror group on Israeli communities and military posts along the border since October 8, 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 10 civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 15 IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Smoke rises after a missile launched from Lebanon hit a house in Metula, near the border with Lebanon, June 26, 2024. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

Hezbollah has named 353 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 64 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and dozens of civilians have been killed.

Israel has warned it can no longer tolerate Hezbollah’s presence along its border, with tens of thousands of Israelis displaced from their homes in the north due to the rocket and drone attacks, and has warned that should a diplomatic solution not be reached it will turn to military action to push Hezbollah northward.

While the political echelon has not yet made a decision on launching an offensive in Lebanon and turning the Gaza Strip into the secondary front, the IDF has said it continues to target Hezbollah commanders who were behind attacks on Israel.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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