Hezbollah warns full-scale war may end Israeli presence in north ‘once and for all’

As terror group’s attacks and Israeli strikes in Lebanon continue, Israeli army official tells WSJ the way out of the conflict ‘is to escalate’

A house lies in ruins in the border area of Shebaa in southern Lebanon, following an Israeli strike on April 27, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border fire  (Rabih DAHER / AFP)
A house lies in ruins in the border area of Shebaa in southern Lebanon, following an Israeli strike on April 27, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border fire (Rabih DAHER / AFP)

Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem warned Saturday that full-scale war will not bring residents of northern Israel home, but rather end their presence there “once and for all,” as Hezbollah attacks on the north and Israel strikes in Lebanon continued.

“[Israeli Defense Minister Yoav] Gallant threatens us that if we don’t stop the attacks, he will attack Lebanon to return the residents of the north to their homes,” he said, in a statement quoted in Hebrew media.

“I say to Gallant that this war will not only cause the residents to not return to their homes but will push their return further and further away and is likely to end their presence once and for all,” he added.

At the same time, a senior Israeli military official cited by The Wall Street Journal said Saturday that intensifying Israeli operations was the only way to end clashes with Hezbollah on the northern border with Lebanon.

“There is a way out and it’s to escalate,” the official argued. “Israel cannot stop right now. It’s dangerous for the whole region.”

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 amid the war.

Israel has threatened to go to war to force Hezbollah away from the border if it does not retreat and continues to threaten northern communities, where some 70,000 people were evacuated to avoid the fighting.

A man stands on a house that was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike, in Hanine village, south Lebanon, Thursday, April 25, 2024 (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

On Saturday evening Israeli fighter jets struck Hezbollah infrastructure in southern Lebanon’s Markaba, alongside another site in Srebbine, the Israel Defense Forces, said.

Earlier a “suspicious aerial target” heading into Israeli airspace from Lebanon in the Manara area was downed by the Iron Dome. The incident set off sirens in the Kiryat Shmona area.

Several anti-tank missiles were also fired from Lebanon at the same area, and the IDF said it shelled the launch site with artillery.

Footage released by the IDF showed a Friday airstrike carried out against a building in southern Lebanon’s Kafr Kila, where it said two Hezbollah operatives were gathered.

The IDF said that one operative was already at the building, when a second armed Hezbollah member was identified by the 869th Combat Intelligence Collection Unit arriving at the site, as seen in the video. The troops then called in an airstrike.

Separate strikes overnight targeted buildings used by Hezbollah in Rihan and Kfarchouba, and other infrastructure in Chebaa, the IDF said.

Troops also shelled areas near Aalma ash-Shab with artillery to “remove threats,” the military added without offering details.

On Friday night Hezbollah launched a barrage of rockets at northern Israel, hours after two members of an allied terror group were killed in an Israeli drone strike in southern Lebanon.

According to the IDF, some 30 rockets were launched in the attack, targeting the Mount Hermon area. The Iron Dome air defense system intercepted some of the rockets, while others apparently hit open areas. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

Sirens did not sound in any towns, but alerts were activated in open areas and army bases on the mountain.

Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the barrage, saying it targeted Israeli army bases in the area with dozens of Katyusha rockets.

Hezbollah said the attack was a response to the killing of two members of the allied al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya terror group in an IDF drone strike earlier Friday.

The IDF said it had targeted a senior member of al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya, or Islamic Group, who was driving on a highway near the town of Meidoun, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Israeli border.

Mosab Khalaf, according to the IDF, “led and advanced many attacks” from Lebanon against Israeli targets, mostly in the Mount Dov area.

The IDF also said Khalaf was coordinating attacks with Hamas’s Lebanon branch, and that his “elimination was carried out to cause a blow to the terror organization’s abilities to advance and carry out terror acts that it has planned recently against the State of Israel in the northern border area.”

In a statement, al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya confirmed the deaths of Mosab Khalaf, as well as of a second member, Bilal Khalaf, saying they were commanders in the group’s armed wing, the al-Fajr Forces.

The exchange of fire came less than a day after Hezbollah carried out a deadly missile attack on Mount Dov, killing an IDF contractor. Sharif Sawaed had been carrying out “infrastructure activity” for the IDF in the Mount Dov area.

Also on Friday, Israeli fighter jets carried out strikes against buildings where Hezbollah operatives were gathered, in the southern Lebanon towns of Tayr Harfa and Ayta ash-Shab, the IDF said.

Tanks also shelled areas near Yarine and Dhayra to “remove threats,” the military added.

Most Popular
read more: