IDF warns Hezbollah is bringing Israel to the brink of a ‘wider escalation’

As cross-border attacks escalate, army spokesman Daniel Hagari says ‘one way or another we will ensure the safe return of Israelis to their homes — that is not up for negotiation’

IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari delivers an English-language address, June 16, 2024. (Screenshot)
IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari delivers an English-language address, June 16, 2024. (Screenshot)

Intensified cross-border fire from Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group at Israel could trigger serious escalation, the Israeli military said on Sunday.

“Hezbollah’s increasing aggression is bringing us to the brink of what could be a wider escalation, one that could have devastating consequences for Lebanon and the entire region,” IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in an English-language video statement.

Hezbollah and Israel have been escalating cross-border strikes. After rocket attacks caused massive fires in the north of the country, Israel last week killed commander Taleb Abdullah, the most senior official killed in the fighting. Hezbollah responded with unprecedented rocket barrages on northern Israel.

Two UN officials in Lebanon warned Sunday there was a “very real” risk that a miscalculation along Lebanon’s southern border could trigger a wider conflict.

The United Nations special coordinator for Lebanon, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, and the head of UN peacekeeping forces in Lebanon, Aroldo Lazaro, said in a statement that they were “deeply concerned” about the escalation along Lebanon’s border.

CBS News reported that US officials were also increasingly concerned that an all-out war could break out after eight months of skirmishes, since Hezbollah began attacking Israel in October in support of the Hamas terror group in Gaza.

In light of the US concerns, the Axios news site reported Friday that Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser to US President Joe Biden, will arrive in Israel on Monday to try to put a lid on the escalation.

Hagari said Hezbollah “has been escalating its attacks against Israel. Since deciding to join the war that Hamas started on October 7th, Hezbollah has fired over 5,000 rockets, anti-tank missiles, and explosive UAVs from Lebanon at Israeli families, homes, and communities.”

He said it was “jeopardizing the future of Lebanon so that it can be a shield for Hamas. A shield for the Hamas terrorists who murdered the elderly, raped women, burned children, and kidnapped Jews, Muslims, and Christians, during their massacre on October 7th.”

“When we say that we will not let October 7th happen again on any one of our borders, we mean it,” Hagari added.

Noting Hezbollah’s “refusal to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1701,” which ended the Second Lebanon War and mandated that the terror group withdraw north of the Litani River, Hagari said that “because of Hezbollah’s military infrastructure, weapons and fire at Israel from the area south of the Litani River in southern Lebanon, and because of Lebanon’s failure to enforce 1701 on Hezbollah, Israel will take the necessary measures to protect its civilians, until security along our border with Lebanon is restored.”

Hagari warned that “one way or another we will ensure the safe and secure return of Israelis to their homes in northern Israel. That is not up for negotiation.”

Smoke billows from fires ignited by Israeli shelling on the forested areas of the southern Lebanese village of Deir Mimas on June 15, 2024. (Rabih DAHER / AFP)

“Iran’s terror proxies continue to drag the region to destruction. Israel will continue fighting against Iran’s axis of evil on all fronts — in Gaza, in Lebanon — as we work towards a more secure future for the Middle East,” Hagari said.

“October 7th cannot happen again, on any one of Israel’s borders. Israel has a duty to defend the people of Israel. We will fulfill that duty, at all costs.”

Two missiles launched from Lebanon on Saturday struck the Israeli military’s sensitive Mount Meron air traffic control base. The Israel Defense Forces said there were no injuries and “no harm to the unit’s capabilities” in the attack.

Hezbollah took responsibility for the incident, claiming to have targeted equipment at the base with guided missiles.

The terror group has attacked Mount Meron, located some eight kilometers (five miles) from the Lebanon border, several times throughout the ongoing war. It has launched large barrages of rockets at the mountain, as well as guided missiles at the air traffic control base that sits atop it.

In another attack on Saturday, several explosive-laden drones launched by Hezbollah from Lebanon impacted near the northern community of Goren, sparking a fire. The IDF said it was investigating why it failed to down the drones.

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire sparked by rockets launched from Lebanon, at the Biriya Forest in northern Israel, June 13, 2024. (David Cohen/Flash90)

As part of the diplomatic efforts to defuse the tensions, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that Paris, Washington and Jerusalem would form a contract group to work on doing so, though Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Friday ruled out Israeli involvement, in comments that prompted a public spat with the Foreign Ministry.

Hezbollah has been attacking Israeli communities and military posts along the border on a near-daily basis since October 8, which it says it’s doing in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, amid the war started by ally Hamas’s terror onslaught.

The skirmishes on the border have resulted in 10 civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 15 IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 342 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 63 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and dozens of civilians have been killed.

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