3 injured in rocket strikes on Kiryat Shmona as Lebanon border tensions spike

2 men, small girl hurt in direct hit on home amid barrage targeting Nahariya and other communities; Hamas branch in Lebanon claims launches; anti-tank missile attacks draw shelling

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

Israeli security forces inspect a site where a rocket launched from Lebanon landed in the northern city of Kiryat Shmona near the border on October 19, 2023. (Jalaa MAREY / AFP)
Israeli security forces inspect a site where a rocket launched from Lebanon landed in the northern city of Kiryat Shmona near the border on October 19, 2023. (Jalaa MAREY / AFP)

Three Israelis, including a young girl, were injured as multiple rocket, missile and gunfire attacks were launched from southern Lebanon toward northern Israel on Thursday.

The attacks came amid continuing skirmishes between the Israeli military and the Hamas and Hezbollah terror groups, amid fears a new front could be opened in Israel’s ongoing war in the Gaza Strip.

Dozens of rockets were fired in several barrages toward northern communities in quick succession Thursday afternoon, setting off sirens in several towns, including the cities of Nahariya and Kiryat Shmona, together home to nearly 90,000 people. Hamas claimed responsibility for the rocket launches.

One projectile slammed into a home in Kiryat Shmona; The Magen David Adom ambulance service said three people were treated for blast injuries and transferred to a hospital.

They included a 75-year-old man with moderate head wounds, and a 30-year-old man and 5-year-old girl with light injuries.

The attack appeared to be the most serious assault on the city since 2006, when it came under heavy attack from Hezbollah during Israel’s 34-day war with the Iran-backed terror group.

Earlier in the day, two anti-tank guided missiles were fired at Kibbutz Manara, close to the border, causing no injuries, and at least one other anti-tank missile was fired at Israel, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Gunfire was also heard near Zar’it. The IDF responded with artillery shelling toward the sites where the attacks originated.

The IDF reported no casualties or damage in the other attacks, with some of the projectiles intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, while others landed in open areas.

In response to the attacks, the military said late Thursday that it carried out airstrikes against a number of Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon.

Separately, the IDF said a combat helicopter struck a terror cell preparing to launch an anti-tank guided missile from Lebanon at Israel.

The rocket launches appeared to be the heaviest barrages in northern Israel since the devastating Hamas assault on the south on October 7. The attacks appeared to portend the opening of a second front for Israel’s military, which is preparing to launch a ground offensive into the Gaza Strip.

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

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

Early Thursday, the IDF said it carried out airstrikes against Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon in response to a series of missile, rocket and mortar attacks carried out by the terror group on northern Israel a day earlier. One person was moderately wounded in one of the attacks Wednesday.

Manara is one of 28 communities being evacuated from the north under the increasing threat of war. Plans have been drawn up to evacuate cities farther from the border, including Kiryat Shmona.

Smoke rises from an Israeli army position which was hit by the Hezbollah terror group as it is seen from Tair Harfa village, south Lebanon, Oct. 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Also Thursday, the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon said Lebanese troops requested assistance to bring back seven individuals stranded along the border with Israel. One person was killed in the operation.

According to the UN force known as UNIFIL, the seven became stranded during an exchange of fire. UNIFIL said it urged the Israeli military to suspend fire to facilitate the rescue operation, and Israel complied, allowing Lebanese troops to recover the seven.

UNIFIL said that “tragically, one person lost his life during this incident and the others were successfully rescued,” without identifying the fatality.

According to several local television stations in Lebanon, among the group were several Iranian journalists, but UNIFIL did not confirm this

The exchanges of fire on Thursday were the latest in a series of increasingly frequent skirmishes on the northern border with the Iran-backed Hezbollah as well as Islamic Jihad and Hamas operatives there. The tit-for-tat attacks have so far remained limited in scope, amid threats from Israel that Lebanon could suffer if Hezbollah steps up its attacks.

At least five Israeli soldiers, 13 Hezbollah terrorists and five Palestinian terrorists have been killed in the exchanges. One Israeli civilian was killed in a Hezbollah attack Sunday, and two 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 some 1,400 people were killed, mostly civilians, and some 200-250 were kidnapped and taken to the Strip.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said Tuesday that if the Iran-backed Hezbollah “makes a mistake,” it will face “destruction.”

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi is seen at the Northern Command in Safed, October 17, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

There have been escalating threats from Iran regarding the possibility of the war being widened, as Israel prepares a ground offensive with the stated goal of toppling Hamas’s rule over the Palestinian enclave.

Israel and the US have both warned Iran and Hezbollah to remain on the sidelines, with Washington dispatching two aircraft carrier groups to the region, signaling it could step in to defend Israel.

As the area has heated up, the IDF and Defense Ministry have been working to evacuate civilians who live in towns up to two kilometers (1.25 miles) from the Lebanese border, due to the repeated rocket and missile attacks by Hezbollah and allied Palestinian factions in recent days.

The ministry’s National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) said the estimated 27,000 residents would be taken to state-funded guesthouses.

Many residents in northern border towns had already evacuated southward, due to the escalating attacks from Lebanon.

With alert levels high, Hezbollah has said it would be “fully prepared” to join its Palestinian ally Hamas in the war against Israel when the time is right.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: