IDF warns Hezbollah of ‘deadly’ response to further attacks

IDF to evacuate civilians from 28 communities along Lebanese border amid attacks

Many residents have already left towns adjacent to the northern frontier; Defense Ministry says residents to be taken to state-funded guesthouses

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

A fire burns on the Israeli side of the border with Lebanon following explosions, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
A fire burns on the Israeli side of the border with Lebanon following explosions, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

The Israel Defense Forces and Defense Ministry announced Monday that they were planning to evacuate civilians who live in towns up to two kilometers (1.25 miles) from the Lebanese border amid repeated rocket and missile attacks by Hezbollah and allied Palestinian factions in recent days.

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

The IDF said it has notified the heads of the local authorities in the area of the upcoming implementation of the plan.

According to the IDF and Defense Ministry, the 28 communities included in the plan were: Ghajar, Dishon, Kfar Yuval, Margaliot, Metula, Avivim, Dovev, Ma’ayan Baruch, Bar’am, Manara, Yiftah, Malkia, Misgav Am, Yir’on, Dafna, Arab al-Aramshe, Shlomi, Netu’a, Ya’ara, Shtula, Matat, Zar’it, Shomera, Betzet, Adamit, Rosh Hanikra, Hanita and Kfar Giladi.

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

IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Monday that Hezbollah would face a “deadly” response if it continued to carry out attacks against Israel.

“Hezbollah carried out a number of attacks yesterday in order to try to divert our operational efforts [away from the Gaza Strip], under the direction and backing of Iran, while endangering the state of Lebanon and its citizens,” Hagari said at a press conference.

“We have increased our forces on the northern border and will respond aggressively to any activity against us,” he said. “If Hezbollah dares to test us, the reaction will be deadly. The United States is giving us full backing.”

A picture taken on October 15, 2023, shows smoke billowing near an Israeli military site close to the southern Lebanese border village of Aita al-Shaab, following shelling by Hezbollah. (Photo by AFP)

On Sunday, the Hezbollah terror group launched six anti-tank guided missiles at an Israeli town and military positions on the Lebanon border, killing one civilian and one soldier.

Another nine rockets were also launched from Lebanon at northern towns, causing no damage or injuries. The Gaza-based Hamas terror group later claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks.

The IDF said it shelled the sources of the missile and rocket fire with artillery and carried out a number of airstrikes against sites belonging to Hezbollah.

On Sunday, the IDF also announced it was restricting the area of up to four kilometers from the Lebanon border, ordering civilians not to enter.

On Friday, the IDF declared some areas in the border town of Metula a closed military zone. Metula in recent days had recommended that residents leave the town amid the tensions.

Israel has traded fire with Hezbollah and allied Palestinian factions in Lebanon several times in recent days, although the tit-for-tat attacks have remained limited in scope.

In total, at least five Israeli soldiers, four Hezbollah terrorists, and five Palestinian terrorists have been killed in the exchanges. One Israeli civilian was killed in the Hezbollah attack Sunday, and two Lebanese civilians and a journalist were also reported killed by Israeli shelling.

An Israeli Merkava tank drives into position in the north of Israel near the border with Lebanon on October 15, 2023. (Jalaa MAREY / AFP)

Hezbollah has fired several anti-tank guided missiles, rockets, and mortars at Israeli military positions in recent days, while Palestinian groups such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad have both launched rockets and sent gunmen to infiltrate into Israel.

The IDF has bolstered forces in northern Israel amid fears that the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group will open up a second front in the war triggered by last weekend’s unprecedented Hamas assault from the Gaza Strip.

War erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw more than 1,500 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing over 1,300 people and seizing 150-200 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities. The vast majority of those killed as gunmen rampaged through border communities were civilians — men, women, children and the elderly.

Residents of communities near the Gaza border have also already been evacuated amid the fighting.

Smoke rises from Israeli shelling on the outskirts of the Lebanese village of Kfar Chouba, Lebanon, Oct. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

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

Iran has also issued threats of a wider confrontation.

The United States has sent a second carrier strike group, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, to the Eastern Mediterranean, where, according to US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, it will join the Gerald R. Ford carrier strike group “as part of our effort to deter hostile actions against Israel or any efforts toward widening this war following Hamas’s attack on Israel.”

Israel has retaliated for the unprecedented Hamas assault by striking the terror group’s targets in the Gaza Strip, saying it aims to destroy Hamas and will target anywhere Hamas operates. This weekend it urged civilians to evacuate the northern Gaza area. Some 2,600 people have been killed in the strikes on Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. The IDF also said it has killed some 1,500 terrorists inside Israel.

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