IDF denies Lebanese claim it struck vehicle carrying UN peacekeepers

UNTSO says 4 people injured in ‘unacceptable’ shelling, does not assign blame

Illustrative: A UNIFIL patrol at the site of an overnight Israeli strike in the southern Lebanese village of Kafra, on February 29, 2024. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)
Illustrative: A UNIFIL patrol at the site of an overnight Israeli strike in the southern Lebanese village of Kafra, on February 29, 2024. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

The Israel Defense Forces on Saturday denied carrying out a strike in southern Lebanon against a vehicle with United Nations peacekeepers, after Lebanese security officials accused it of targeting the car.

“Contrary to reports, the IDF did not attack a [UN] vehicle in the Rmeish area this morning,” the military said in a statement.

Two unnamed security sources accused Israel of the strike in comments to Reuters, saying it took place outside the southern Lebanese border town of Rmeish. A source told Reuters the car was carrying three UN technical observers and one Lebanese translator when it was struck.

Lebanese media claimed several UN observers were wounded in the strike.

The UN said said four of its military observers were wounded when a shell exploded near them. The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) did not identify the source of the shelling.

“This morning four UNTSO military observers on a foot patrol along the Blue Line (demarcating the border with Israel) were injured when a shell exploded near their location,” UNTSO said.

“The targeting of peacekeepers is unacceptable,” it said in a statement, adding that they were taken to hospital for treatment and an investigation launched into the origin of the explosion.

Israel and Lebanese terror group Hezbollah have been locked in cross-border skirmishes since the start of the war in Gaza, with Hezbollah attacking Israeli towns and military targets on a near-daily basis, claiming it is doing so in support of Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

On Friday morning the IDF said it eliminated the deputy commander of Hezbollah’s rocket unit in a drone strike in southern Lebanon.

The senior Hezbollah commander, Ali Naim, was struck while in a car in the town of Bazouriye, close to Tyre.

According to the IDF, Naim was “considered to be a significant source of knowledge in the terror group, and leader in the field of rockets.”

“He was also one of the leaders for heavy-warhead rocket fire and responsible for conducting and planning attacks against Israeli civilians,” the IDF added.

Hezbollah confirmed Naim’s death but did not refer to him as a commander.

The IDF released footage of the strike.

Speaking following an assessment at the IDF Northern Command in Safed, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said he observed the strike on Naim.

Hinting at Israel’s alleged Thursday overnight airstrike in Syria, in which 38 people were killed, including five Hezbollah operatives and members of the Syrian army, Gallant said the military will “expand the campaign [against Hezbollah] and increase the rate of attacks in the north.

“Israel is turning from defending to pursuing Hezbollah. We will reach wherever the organization operates, in Beirut, Damascus and in more distant places.”

Gallant added: “The one responsible for the serious damage in Lebanon is Hezbollah and the one responsible for the many casualties in the Hezbollah group is [Hassan] Nasrallah personally. They have over 320 terrorists killed, and we will exact a price for any action that comes out of Lebanon.”

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant visits the IDF Northern Command HQ in Safed, March 29, 2024. (Shachar Yurman/Defense Ministry)

The official tally of Hezbollah members killed since hostilities between the sides escalated on October 8 was brought up to 264 following the strikes on Friday. Gallant’s tally of 320 seemingly included terrorists from other organizations north of Israel.

Also Friday, the IDF said it carried out an airstrike on a Hezbollah rocket launcher in southern Lebanon, minutes after the terror group used it to fire projectiles at the Biranit army base.

According to a statement from the military, fighter jets later struck a Hezbollah “military building” adjacent to the launch site in the town of Ayta ash-Shaab.

The IDF said fighter jets also struck a “military facility” in Mays al-Jabal where a Hezbollah operative was spotted.

The IDF added that several more Hezbollah sites, including additional buildings, were targeted in Chebaa on Friday, and an observation post in Yaroun was hit late Thursday.

Hezbollah appeared to have retaliated against Israel, as rocket warning sirens were activated in several towns in the Western Galilee, close to the Lebanese border, throughout Friday.

Sirens also sounded twice in the northern city of Kiryat Shmona, with the IDF saying the first was due to an interceptor missile being fired at a “suspicious aerial target” that entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon. The IDF said the target was successfully downed, and the alarms were activated due to fears of falling shrapnel.

The second set of sirens in Kiryat Shmona were false alarms, the IDF said.

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 there.

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in eight 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.

Of the 264 members Hezbollah says were killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, most died in Lebanon, but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 50 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and at least 60 civilians, three of whom were journalists, have been killed.

The hostilities began as part of the regional turmoil which began on October 7 when Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel from Gaza, killing nearly 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping 253.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: