IDF soldier seriously hurt as Hezbollah swarms north with attack drones

Explosive-laden drone intercepted over sensitive defense facility near Sakhnin; another UAV from Iraq shot down; terror group takes responsibility for strikes

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

A Hezbollah drone is seen being shot down by air defenses over northern Israel, June 23, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
A Hezbollah drone is seen being shot down by air defenses over northern Israel, June 23, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Lebanese Hezbollah terror group launched several explosive-laden drones at northern Israel on Sunday, seriously wounding a soldier in one incident, as the Israeli military said it shot down an unmanned aerial aircraft heading toward the country from Iraq.

Sunday’s drone launches came amid fears of a wider conflict between Israel and the Iran-backed group in Lebanon, which has ramped up its attacks in recent months.

In the first incident on Sunday morning, an explosive-laden drone launched from Lebanon struck an area near the northern community of Beit Hillel, the military and local authorities said.

The Israel Defense Forces said an interceptor missile was launched at the UAV, although it failed to intercept the device.

Hezbollah took responsibility for the drone attack, claiming to have targeted an Israeli military base adjacent to the community.

There were no injuries in the incident, the IDF said.

Several hours later, another drone apparently launched by Hezbollah was shot down over the Lower Galilee, near a sensitive defense facility.

The IDF said the device had entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon, but drone infiltration sirens did not sound “according to protocol.”

It was shot down by air defenses near the northern city of Sakhnin, an area that houses a major factory belonging to the Rafael defense contractor.

Rocket sirens sounded in several towns near Sakhnin, some 25 kilometers from the Lebanon border, over fears of falling shrapnel following the interception, the IDF said.

Hezbollah did not immediately take responsibility for the attack. The terror group did, however, claim a separate drone attack.

In a statement, Hezbollah said it launched several explosive-laden drones at a military base near the northern community of Ayelet HaShahar, about 10 kilometers from the border.

According to the IDF, one of the drones was shot down by air defenses, while several more struck near Ayelet HaShahar, sparking fires and seriously wounding one soldier.

The soldier was taken to a hospital for treatment.

Footage circulating on social media showed one of the Hezbollah drones impacting near a military base before a second one was shot down by air defenses.

The Hezbollah drone attacks or their interceptions sparked fires near Dishon, the Misgav Forest, and Ayelet HaShahar, the Israel Fire and Rescue Services said.

Meanwhile, fighter jets struck a building and an observation post used by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon’s Kafr Kila on Saturday night, the IDF said.

A separate strike targeted a group of Hezbollah operatives in Taybeh, the military added.

Tensions between Hezbollah and Israel have recently reached a fever pitch, after an Israeli airstrike targeted Taleb Abdullah, the terror group’s commander for the central region of the southern border strip and its most senior commander killed in the current war.

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

Fires and black smoke rises from houses in the northern Israeli border community of Metula which were hit by Hezbollah anti-tank missiles, as seen from the Lebanese town of Marjayoun, June 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

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.

Hezbollah has named 349 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 behind attacks on Israel.

Fighter jets down drone launched from Iraq

Additionally overnight, Israeli fighter jets downed a drone heading toward Israel from the east, the military said.

The IDF has described past attacks launched from Iraq as “from the east.”

According to the military, the drone did not enter Israeli airspace, and therefore sirens did not sound in any towns.

An Israeli Air Force fighter aircraft flies over the border area between northern Israel and southern Lebanon on June 21, 2024. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

The IDF’s statement came shortly after the Iran-backed Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed to have launched drones at a “vital target” in Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat. It said the attack was in support of Palestinians in Gaza.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq has claimed dozens of drone attacks on Israel amid the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, with the IDF reporting downing many of them. Many of the militia’s claims have been exaggerated, but in one case it managed to hit an Israeli Navy base in Eilat, causing damage.

Along with the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, Iran-backed groups in Yemen and Syria have claimed to have launched dozens of drones at Israel during the ongoing war sparked by Hamas’s devastating October 7 terror onslaught. Iran itself also carried out an unprecedented attack on Israel in April with hundreds of drones and missiles.

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