IDF chief warns Israel ‘preparing offensive in north,’ as Hezbollah attacks persist

Halevi meets troops on Lebanon border amid ongoing skirmishes with terror group; anti-tank missiles cause damage to homes in Metula

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi meets with officers and soldiers near the Lebanon border, May 1, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi meets with officers and soldiers near the Lebanon border, May 1, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

During a visit to the Lebanon border, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said the military was preparing for an offensive against the Hezbollah terror group, which continued to carry out attacks on northern Israel on Wednesday.

“You are doing an excellent job of operational defense in the north, and we are preparing for an offensive in the north,” Halevi said to reservists of the Etzioni Brigade at an undisclosed location on the border with Lebanon, in remarks published by the military.

The remarks were made following an assessment Halevi held with the chief of the Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin, the commander of the 146th Division, Brig. Gen. Yisrael Shomer, and other officers, the IDF said.

Speaking with the reservists, Halevi also said the IDF’s campaign in the Gaza Strip would continue “with strength.”

“Its objectives are both to restore security to the communities near the Gaza Strip and to bring the hostages back home securely,” he said.

The visit to the Lebanon border came amid repeated Hezbollah attacks on northern Israel amid the war in Gaza, including on Wednesday.

Heavy rockets fired by Hezbollah from Lebanon land in Kibbutz Hanita, northern Israel, on April 21, 2024. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

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, from where some 70,000 people have been evacuated to avoid the fighting.

Hezbollah claimed responsibility for four separate attacks throughout Wednesday, including anti-tank missile fire on the largely evacuated border community of Metula, causing damage to homes.

The IDF said no injuries were caused in the attack, and troops shelled the launch sites in southern Lebanon with artillery.

Israeli fighter jets also struck two buildings used by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon’s Ayta ash-Shab and Marwahin on Wednesday evening, the military said.

Earlier in the day, another site belonging to the terror group in Tayr Harfa was hit, the IDF added.

In separate strikes overnight, fighter jets struck Hezbollah positions in five different areas of southern Lebanon, the military said Wednesday morning. The IDF said observation posts, buildings, and other Hezbollah infrastructure were hit in Khiam, Kafr Kila, Blida, Odaisseh, and Mays al-Jabal.

It published footage of the strikes.

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.

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in nine civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 11 IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 290 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 56 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and at least 60 civilians, three of them journalists, have been killed.

On Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné was in Israel as part of a larger regional diplomatic trip in an effort to broker a de-escalation in the conflict on the border, and with Paris trying to act as an intermediary.

This handout picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra shows France’s Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne (L) meeting with Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, in Beirut, on April 28, 2024. (DALATI AND NOHRA / AFP)

Following a series of meetings in Lebanon on Sunday, Séjourné told journalists that France “is refusing to accept the worst-case scenario” of a full-scale war in Lebanon. “In southern Lebanon, the war is already here, even if it’s not called by that name, and it’s the civilian population who’s paying the price,” he said.

A French diplomatic official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the purpose of Séjourné’s visit was to convey France’s “fears of a war on Lebanon” and to submit an amendment to a proposal Paris had previously presented to Lebanon for a diplomatic resolution to the border conflict.

On Tuesday, Séjourné said that a number of modifications had been put to Israel following those consultations in Lebanon. “I call on Israeli authorities to take a public position on these French plans that will enable us to move to the next stage,” he said in an interview with Reuters.

“A number of proposals that we made to the Lebanese side have been shared (with you),” Sejourne said ahead of a meeting with Foreign Minister Israel Katz in Jerusalem.”We have a relationship with Lebanon, 20,000 citizens there, and the war in 2006 was particularly dramatic for them.”

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz, right, shakes hands with his French counterpart Stephane Sejourne as they pose for a picture before a meeting in Jerusalem, April 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Séjourné said the basis of the proposals was to ensure that the 2006 UN Resolution 1701 was implemented. Resolution 1701 required that Hezbollah withdraw its forces north of the Litani, a provision the Iranian proxy has ignored.

Earlier this year, Séjourné presented a written proposal to both sides that included Hezbollah’s forces pulling back 10km (6 miles) from the Israeli border and Israel halting strikes in southern Lebanon. The proposal also looked at long-term border issues and was discussed with partners including the United States, which is making its own efforts to ease tensions and exerts the most influence on Israel.

Hezbollah has maintained it will not enter any concrete discussions with Israel until there is a ceasefire in Gaza, where the war between Israel and Hamas has entered its seventh month.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: