IDF hits Hezbollah air defenses in northeast Lebanon after drone attack wounds 18

Military says it targeted terror group’s infrastructure in Baalbek region, known to be a Hezbollah stronghold

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

The Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday that it carried out an airstrike against a site belonging to Hezbollah’s air defense unit in northeastern Lebanon’s Baalbek, hours after the terror group carried out an explosive drone attack on northern Israel, wounding 14 soldiers and four civilians,

In a short statement, the IDF said fighter jets struck Hezbollah air defense infrastructure north of the city of Baalbek, almost 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Israeli border.

According to Lebanese media, the strike took place near the town of Iaat.

Baalbek has been identified in the past as a Hezbollah stronghold. The strike marked the sixth time amid the war in the Gaza Strip that Israel struck Hezbollah positions in the Baalbek area.

The airstrike deep in Lebanon came in response to the explosive drone attack in the northern border town of Arab al-Aramshe.

Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it targeted a building being used by the Israeli military with guided missiles and explosive-laden drones.

According to the IDF’s initial probe, Hezbollah fired two anti-tank missiles at the town, before launching the drones, which directly hit a community center.

Though the town has been largely evacuated, soldiers are stationed there and may have used the building as a gathering space.

The victims were taken to Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, which said that one was listed in critical condition and four others were seriously wounded. The remaining victims were moderately and lightly hurt, the hospital added.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, 14 of the victims were soldiers, including the five listed in critical and serious condition. The four civilian victims were all lightly hurt.

The terror group said the attack was a response to the killing of three of its members, including two commanders, in Israeli strikes in southern Lebanon a day earlier.

Warning sirens did not sound. The IDF was investigating why the alarms were not activated before the strike, and why the drone was not intercepted.

Footage posted to social media showed the explosive-laden drone crashing down on the community center.

Not long after the strike, alarms warning of incoming rockets sounded twice in Arab al-Aramshe.

Following the attack, the IDF said it targeted the launch sites.

Fighter jets also struck buildings used by the terror group and where Hezbollah operatives were gathered, along with other infrastructure, in southern Lebanon’s Ayta ash-Shab, Naqoura and Yarine, the military added.

Since October 8, Hezbollah has attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the border on a daily basis with rockets, drones, anti-tank missiles and other means, saying it is doing so to support Gaza amid the war there.

The exchange of fire Wednesday came a day after Hezbollah launched two explosive-laden drones at northern Israel, wounding three people. Also on Tuesday, the IDF killed two top Hezbollah commanders and a third member of the terror group in airstrikes in southern Lebanon.

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.

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in eight civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 10 IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 278 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 have been killed.

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