Halevi: Hezbollah decided to enter this war, is paying price

IDF admits Mount Meron air traffic control base damaged in Hezbollah attack

Terror group’s video shows radar domes being hit by missiles Saturday; IDF says unit still functioning on backup systems; army response included strikes on Hezbollah compounds

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

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)
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)

The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday admitted damage was caused to a sensitive air traffic control base in northern Israel following a Hezbollah missile attack a day prior, which the terror group said was a response to the alleged Israeli killing of Hamas terror chief Saleh al-Arouri in Lebanon last week.

Hezbollah fired a barrage of more than 40 rockets and several missiles at the base atop Mount Meron, which is located some eight kilometers (5 miles) from the Lebanon border.

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

In an evening press conference, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said the damage to the base would be repaired.

“Thanks to preparations in advance, the unit continues to function and has other systems as backup,” Hagari said.

He said the IDF was investigating the incident in order to prevent similar attacks on the sensitive base.

The Iran-backed terror group said in a statement that the attack was “part of the initial response to the crime of assassinating the great leader Sheikh Saleh al-Arouri.”

Hezbollah said it targeted the Meron base with 62 “various types of missiles.”

There were no injuries in the attack.

In response to the attack, the IDF said it carried out several waves of strikes on Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, including two  “significant” military compounds belonging to the terror group.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said Sunday that the military was exacting increasingly heavy prices from Hezbollah, as it continued to carry out attacks on northern Israel.

“Hezbollah has decided to enter this war, and we are exacting ever-increasing prices. It paid yesterday with seven deaths, it paid yesterday with two very, very important targets, and we are increasing the price it pays,” he said.

Halevi said the IDF has the responsibility of returning Israel’s displaced northern residents to their homes, and this would come through either the military’s pressure on Hezbollah, “or we will end up with another war.”

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi (right) holds an assessment in the West Bank with the commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, Brig. Gen. Yaki Dolf, January 7, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Hezbollah on Sunday claimed responsibility for nine attacks on northern Israel.

In one attack, a building in the northern community of Metula was struck by a missile.

Earlier Sunday, the IDF said it carried out airstrikes on several Hezbollah targets in Lebanon.

Troops also struck a Hezbollah cell spotted near the southern Lebanese town of Marwahin, and fighter jets hit several buildings used by Hezbollah in Labbouneh, Majdal Zoun and Bint Jbeil, the IDF said.

It added that secondary explosions were seen in some of the buildings that were hit, indicating they were used as weapons depots.

The IDF also announced that on Saturday, air defenses intercepted a “hostile aerial target” that entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon, near the northern community of Even Menachem.

The barrage on Saturday, one of the largest since the start of skirmishes on the northern border linked to the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7, came a day after Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah threatened that Israel’s northern residents would be “the first to pay the price if a full-scale war were to erupt” along the front.

Nasrallah also used the address to repeat many of the same threats against Israel that he made earlier this week, again vowing to avenge deputy Hamas chief Arouri’s killing in Beirut while remaining vague on the specifics.

The attack on Arouri has sparked fears of a broader conflagration because he was the most high-profile figure to be killed since October 7 and because his death came in the first strike on the Lebanese capital since hostilities started.

Since the deadly Hamas onslaught of October 7, in which some 1,200 people were slaughtered, mostly civilians, and around 240 were taken hostage, Hezbollah and allied Palestinian terror factions have engaged in daily cross-border clashes with Israeli troops along the Lebanon border. Lebanese terrorists have also targeted Israeli civilians and their homes, forcing tens of thousands to evacuate the area.

The fighting along the border has resulted in four civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of nine IDF soldiers.

Hezbollah has named 153 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 19 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and at least 19 civilians, three of whom were journalists, have been killed.

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