IDF hits 40 Hezbollah sites; Gallant says group’s south Lebanon command decimated

Fighter jets, artillery target weapon depots, assets in Ayta ash-Shab amid incessant attacks, including missile fire on Avivim

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

IDF strikes are seen in southern Lebanon's Ayta ash-Shab, April 24, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Wednesday claimed that the military had killed half of Hezbollah’s commanders in southern Lebanon, as the Israel Defense Forces carried out a large wave of strikes against dozens of sites belonging to the terror group.

“Half of the Hezbollah commanders in south Lebanon have been eliminated… and the other half hide and abandon south Lebanon to IDF operations,” Gallant said, after holding an assessment at the Northern Command headquarters in Safed with the chief of the command, Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin, and other top officers.

He said Israel’s main goal in the north was to return tens of thousands of Israelis displaced by Hezbollah’s daily attacks to their homes.

“We are dealing with a number of alternatives in order to establish this matter, and the coming period will be decisive in this regard,” Gallant said.

As the defense minister toured the Northern Command, the IDF said some 40 Hezbollah targets in the town of Ayta ash-Shab were hit within just several minutes by fighter jets and artillery shelling.

The wave of strikes came hours after the terror group fired anti-tank missiles at a community in northern Israel.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant holds an assessment with the chief of the IDF Northern Command in Safed, Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin, and other top officers, April 24, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

The military said the targets included weapon depots and other assets belonging to Hezbollah, and charged that Ayta ash-Shab was used by the group for “terror” and that it places dozens of its sites in the area.

In a statement, the IDF said the strikes were “part of the effort to destroy the organization’s infrastructure in the border area,” and not a response to any specific attack.

Ahead of the strikes, the military issued an unusual statement announcing that it had begun to attack Hezbollah targets in south Lebanon. Amid the ongoing war, the military has generally announced strikes in Lebanon only after they have been completed. The announcement indicated that the strikes were on a much larger scale than usual.

Hours before the wave of strikes, Hezbollah fired several anti-tank guided missiles at the northern community of Avivim, striking two homes and causing a fire.

The Merom HaGalil Regional Council, which has jurisdiction over Avivim, said the missiles caused no injuries.

Hezbollah claimed the attack in a statement, saying it “targeted a building in Avivim in which ‘enemy soldiers’ were present.”

The missile attack on Avivim came after a wave of overnight Israeli Air Force strikes against Hezbollah positions in Lebanon, following repeated attacks by the Iran-backed terror group on northern Israel.

The overnight strikes targeted a rocket launcher in the town of Tayr Harfa after it was used in an attack on the northern community of Shomera on Tuesday night, the IDF said.

The IDF said additional targets included Hezbollah infrastructure in Markaba, a building in Ayta ash-Shab and an observation post in Marwahin.

Troops also shelled areas near Chihine and Kfarchouba with artillery to “remove threats,” the military added.

Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the village of Majdal Zoun near Lebanon’s southern border on April 21, 2024. (Kawnat Haju/AFP)

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 11 IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 287 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon, but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 54 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier and at least 60 civilians, three of whom were journalists, have been killed.

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 were evacuated to avoid the fighting.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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