Military strikes Hezbollah buildings in southern Lebanon

IDF chief says Israel in ‘multi-front war,’ urges vigilance amid Ramadan tensions

Halevi says Israeli forces fighting both near and ‘more distant’ enemies, warns events in one area can spill over; IDF: 250 Hamas operatives killed in central Gaza the past 2 weeks

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi speaks to Border Police officers in the West Bank, March 15, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi speaks to Border Police officers in the West Bank, March 15, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi warned Israel is in a multi-front war and that incidents on one front can impact others, with the military fighting in Gaza, the West Bank and along the northern borders.

Speaking Friday to Border Police officers in the West Bank, Halevi noted security forces were on heightened alert due to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with Hamas trying to stoke unrest in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

“We are more alert this month. Really be very vigilant, very careful, with very good security,” Halevi said in a video released Saturday by the IDF. “We are in a multi-front war, Lebanon, Syria, Judea and Samaria [West Bank], and Gaza, and more distant things.”

“Everyone, every soldier… has responsibility for all the arenas, because every incident that happens in one of the arenas really affects and can cause [developments] in other areas as well,” he added.

War erupted when Hamas-led terrorists rampaged through southern communities on October 7, slaughtering some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking 253 captives to Gaza, where over half remain. The devastating onslaught and the resulting Israeli offensive — aimed at eliminating Hamas and returning the hostages — have sparked fears of a regional conflagration.

The IDF said Saturday that the Nahal Infantry Brigade killed more than 250 Hamas operatives in the central Gaza Strip over the past two weeks, in gun battles and by calling in strikes by tanks and aircraft.

The Nahal Brigade is operating in the so-called Netzarim Corridor, which crosses Gaza from the Kibbutz Be’eri area to the coast. The corridor has enabled the IDF to carry out raids in northern and central Gaza.

Nahal troops with the 601st Combat Engineering Battalion have destroyed numerous Hamas assets in the area in recent weeks, including rockets, launchers, and weapons depots, the IDF said.

The IDF also said some 15 terror operatives holed up in a Hamas site in central Gaza’s Nuseirat were killed in an airstrike Friday.

The airstrike was directed by the 215th Artillery Regiment, following intelligence information about the operatives. The IDF said the regiment directed a separate airstrike, killing a Hamas sniper squad commander and another operative.

In central Gaza, the IDF said the Nahal Brigade killed some 10 gunmen over the past day.

Meanwhile, in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis, the IDF said fighter jets struck and destroyed a Hamas weapons depot spotted by the 7th Armored Brigade.

Also in Khan Younis, the Givati Brigade directed strikes on two Hamas operatives spotted entering and exiting a site known to be used by the terror group, the IDF said.

Soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip in an undated photo released for publication by the military on March 16, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza said at least 63 people had been killed over the previous 24 hours. The numbers cannot be independently verified.

Earlier Saturday, ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra reported 36 deaths from a strike on a house sheltering displaced people in Nuseirat, central Gaza.

AFPTV images showed a building blown apart. Yussef Tabatibi said survivors were trying to recover the dead with only their bare hands.

“What should we do? God help us,” he said.

Witnesses reported air strikes and fighting in Khan Younis, as well as parts of the north.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 31,500 people in the Strip have been killed in the fighting so far, a figure that cannot be independently verified, and includes those killed by the terror groups’ failed rocket launches and some 13,000 Hamas terrorists Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 gunmen inside Israel on October 7.

The war has devastated the enclave, forcing nearly all the inhabitants from their homes, leaving much of the territory in rubble, and triggering a massive hunger crisis that has alarmed even Israel’s allies.

Western countries have called on Israel to do more to allow in aid, with the UN saying it faced “overwhelming obstacles,” including crossing closures, onerous vetting, restrictions on movement and unrest inside Gaza.

World Central Kitchen boat off the coast of Gaza on March 15, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel says it puts no limit on humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza and blames slow aid delivery on incapacity or inefficiency among UN agencies.

Air and sea relief deliveries into Gaza have started, but aid agencies say these are no substitute for bringing in supplies by land.

A first delivery into Gaza by the World Central Kitchen, pioneering a new sea route via Cyprus, arrived on Friday and was off-loaded, the charity said, with another ship ready. The United States and Jordan said they carried out an airdrop on Saturday.

Also Saturday, Hebrew media reports said tourists found a crashed hostile drone near the Sea of Galilee in recent days.

The Kan public broadcaster reported the drone was found in Ramat Sirin, south of the Sea of Galilee.

If launched by Hezbollah, it would mark the southernmost point that one of the Lebanese terror group’s drones has reached since it began attacking Israel after the Hamas onslaught, the broadcaster said.

Police later destroyed the drone, according to the Ynet news site, and the military was probing the matter.

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

The IDF said Saturday fighter jets struck two buildings used by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon’s Mays al-Jabal and Marwahin.

Another observation post in Marwahin was also struck, the IDF said.

The strikes came after projectiles were fired from Lebanon at the Mount Dov, Malkia and Misgav Am areas on the border. The IDF also said it shelled the launch sites with artillery.

Earlier, the IDF said fighter jets struck overnight a building used by the Hezbollah terror group in southern Lebanon’s Tayr Harfa and another infrastructure in Labbouneh.

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in seven civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of ten IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 244 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon, but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 41 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and at least 30 civilians, three of whom were journalists, have been killed.

Israel has repeatedly warned that it would be forced to launch a military campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon if diplomatic efforts to end the attacks and push the terror group away from Israel’s border were not successful.

Lebanon sees a French proposal meant to end hostilities with Israel and settle a border dispute as a possible “significant step” towards peace, according to a letter by Lebanon’s foreign ministry dated Friday and seen by Reuters.

The French plan was submitted to Lebanon last month and the details were first reported by Reuters. It outlines three phases in which military operations would cease, Lebanese terror groups would withdraw combat forces and Lebanese regular army troops would be deployed in the south.

To succeed, any deal would need approval from the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, which holds significant sway over the Lebanese state. Hezbollah says it will not stop clashing with Israel until an Israeli-Hamas ceasefire is reached in Gaza.

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