FM Katz warns Hezbollah of destruction in 'total war'

In open threat, Hezbollah publishes drone footage of sites in northern Israel

Terror group posts nearly 10 minutes of video, including shots of Haifa bay and sensitive military locations, as US envoy urges de-escalation in Beirut

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

A still image of Haifa Bay from footage of northern Israel claimed by Hezbollah to have been captured with a drone on an unspecified date and published on June 18, 2024. (Screenshot, X, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A still image of Haifa Bay from footage of northern Israel claimed by Hezbollah to have been captured with a drone on an unspecified date and published on June 18, 2024. (Screenshot, X, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The Hezbollah terror group published footage on Tuesday from what it said was one of its reconnaissance drones flying over northern Israel, including the Haifa port, as Israel said it struck down more suspected drones over the Western Galilee.

It was unclear when the roughly 10 minutes of footage released by Hezbollah were captured, and the Israel Defense Forces did not immediately comment on the video.

In November, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah claimed that the terror group had been sending surveillance drones over Haifa. In recent months, the group has increasingly launched drones, including explosive-laden ones, at northern Israel.

The footage of Haifa’s coastline, some 27 kilometers (17 miles) away from the Lebanese border, appeared to include a portion of an Israeli Navy base, as well as several warships and infrastructure said to belong to the Navy’s submarine unit, Shayetet 7.

In addition to the Haifa port, the footage included shots of what Hezbollah said were strategic military locations across northern Israel, including the Iron Dome and David’s Sling air defense systems, as well as footage of a residential neighborhood in nearby Kiryat Yam.

Hezbollah claimed that the drone returned to Lebanon unimpeded.

Shortly after the footage was published, the IDF said it had shot down three suspected drones, over the Western Galilee.

The “suspicious aerial targets” were shot down by interceptor missiles after they had crossed into Israeli airspace, the military said and added that sirens had sounded due to fears of falling shrapnel following the interceptions.

The IDF also said on Tuesday that it had carried out a series of strikes in southern Lebanon, targeting several Hezbollah operatives involved in launching drones.

The operatives were part of Hezbollah’s aerial forces unit, which the military said was behind dozens of explosive-laden drone attacks on northern Israel and other surveillance operations.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Israel Katz warned that Hezbollah would be destroyed in the event of a “total war.”

“We are very close to the moment when we will decide to change the rules of the game against Hezbollah and Lebanon,” Katz said, quoted in a statement from his office. “In a total war, Hezbollah will be destroyed and Lebanon will be hit hard.”

Foreign Minister Israel Katz tours the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, February 19, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Hezbollah said last week that it had carried out more than 2,100 military operations against Israel since October 8 in what it says is a show of support for Palestinians and Hamas in its war with Israel in the Gaza Strip.

So far, the near-daily 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. Across the border, Hezbollah has named  343 members who have been killed by Israel, 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.

While the US and France have been engaged in efforts aimed at preventing the risk of an all-out war from erupting between Israel and Hezbollah, Israel has said it would not hesitate to take military action should diplomacy fail.

“Whether diplomatically or militarily 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. Oct. 7 cannot happen again anywhere in Israel or on any of Israel’s borders,” Israeli government spokesman David Mencer said on Tuesday.

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, right, meets with US envoy Amos Hochstein in Beirut, Lebanon, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

He added that Israel was “impeding Hezbollah’s military buildup and their stockpiling of weapons for terror against Israelis.”

As a part of the US’s attempt to prevent further escalation between Israel and Hezbollah, US envoy Amos Hochstein was in Beirut on Tuesday after visiting Israel a day earlier, to meet with Lebanese officials including parliament speaker Nabih Berri, an ally of Hezbollah.

The conversation with Berri was “very good,” Hochstein said, with the two discussing “the deal on the table right now with respect to Gaza, which also provides an opportunity to end the conflict across the Blue Line,” the demarcation line between Israel and Lebanon.

The need for de-escalation was “urgent,” Hochstein told reporters in Beirut, and stressed that the cross-border fire had “gone on for long enough.”

“It’s in everyone’s interest to resolve it quickly and diplomatically — that is both achievable and it is urgent,” he said.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: