IDF intercepts drones over north, foils Hezbollah missile squads

Army says it has eliminated more than 20 Hezbollah cells in southern Lebanon since the start of the war with Hamas; 2 wounded by shrapnel in Kiryat Shmona

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

Israeli soldiers patrol near the Israeli border with Lebanon, northern Israel, October 19, 2023 (David Cohen/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers patrol near the Israeli border with Lebanon, northern Israel, October 19, 2023 (David Cohen/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces on Monday intercepted two apparent drones launched from Lebanon at northern Israel, while striking four Hezbollah cells allegedly planning to carry out attacks on the border.

The past two weeks have seen repeated clashes between the Israeli military and the Hezbollah terror group and allied Palestinian factions in southern Lebanon, amid fears a new front could be opened as Israel continues its war with Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip in the south.

In the first incident Monday, the IDF said it launched an Iron Dome missile at a “suspicious target” that entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon. An alert was activated in an open area, the IDF added.

The target may have been a drone, but the military was still investigating.

In a second incident several hours later, the IDF said the Iron Dome air defense system shot down a drone that entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon via the sea.

The drone was intercepted over Ein Hamifratz, a kibbutz south of Acre. Incoming rocket sirens had sounded in Ein Hamifratz and the adjacent Kfar Masaryk, apparently as a result of the Iron Dome missile, not the drone.

Shortly after, the IDF announced that it had carried out a drone strike against a terror cell in southern Lebanon allegedly preparing to carry out an anti-tank guided missile attack in the Mount Dov area on the northern border.

Later Monday, the IDF said it carried out drone strikes against two more Hezbollah cells in southern Lebanon allegedly preparing anti-tank guided missile attacks.

The IDF said one of the cells was planning a missile attack in the Mount Dov area and the second near the northern community of Matat.

The military added that it is also shelling the area with artillery.

In another strike on Monday night, the IDF said it struck a terror cell preparing to launch rockets at the Mount Dov area.

Also on Monday, police said two people in Kiryat Shmona were wounded by shrapnel and a house suffered damage after a missile attack nearby.

The two were identified by Channel 12 news as children who were in a bomb shelter as sirens sounded in the city, which had largely been evacuated.

The IDF said that a missile was launched from Lebanon at a military post near Misgav Am, setting off sirens in Kiryat Shmona.

Officers and sappers were at the scene to clear the shrapnel, police added.

The army said it had returned fire toward the source of the launch.

The scene of where shrapnel from a missile fired from Lebanon hit a home in the northern city of Kiryat Shmona, October 19, 2023. (Erez Ben Simon/Flash90)

Earlier Monday, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said the military had carried out strikes to eliminate more than 20 Hezbollah cells in southern Lebanon since the start of the war with Hamas.

Throughout Sunday and shortly after midnight on Monday, the IDF said, it struck a total of nine Hezbollah cells preparing missile and rocket attacks.

Hezbollah also launched a missile at IDF surveillance equipment at a military post near the northern communities of Manara and Margaliot. Three more missiles were launched at other areas along the northern border, causing no injuries or damage, the IDF said.

Also Sunday, a number of mortars were launched from Lebanon at the northern community of Yiftah. The IDF said the projectiles landed in open areas, causing no injuries or damage.

On Sunday morning, the IDF and Defense Ministry announced that they were planning to evacuate another 14 communities close to the Lebanese border, amid the repeated rocket and missile attacks by Hezbollah and allied Palestinian factions over the last two weeks.

The ministry’s National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) said the residents would be taken to state-funded guesthouses. Last week, NEMA began to evacuate 28 communities that are within two kilometers (1.25 miles) of the border, as well as the city of Kiryat Shmona.

Many residents in northern border towns have already evacuated southward amid the escalating attacks from Lebanon.

Hezbollah has fired dozens of anti-tank guided missiles, rockets and mortars at Israeli military positions and Israeli towns since the October 7 Hamas onslaught, while also sending gunmen — some affiliated with Palestinian terror groups — to infiltrate northern Israel. Several drones have also been intercepted over northern Israel.

The tit-for-tat attacks have so far remained limited in scope, amid threats from Israel that Lebanon will suffer if Hezbollah steps up its attacks.

At least six Israeli soldiers, 29 Hezbollah terrorists and six Palestinian terrorists have been killed in the exchanges. One Israeli civilian was killed in a Hezbollah attack, and several Lebanese civilians and a journalist were also reported killed by Israeli shelling.

The attacks from Lebanon have come as Israel is waging war in Gaza against Hamas after the terror group’s murderous assault on the country on October 7, in which it killed some 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped over 200 people and took them to the Strip.

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