Israel strikes Hezbollah in Lebanon in response to latest attacks on northern border

Sirens go off in Rosh Hanikra, and the IDF says it hit several terror cells along border; earlier, military struck sites in Syria and rocket launchers in Lebanon

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

Smoke billows after IDF shelling near the village of Tair Harfa (foreground) on the outskirts of the villages of Marwahin and al-Bustan in southern Lebanon near the border with northern Israel on December 13, 2023. (AFP)
Smoke billows after IDF shelling near the village of Tair Harfa (foreground) on the outskirts of the villages of Marwahin and al-Bustan in southern Lebanon near the border with northern Israel on December 13, 2023. (AFP)

Following a wave of rocket fire from Lebanon, the IDF on Wednesday struck Hezbollah sites in the southern part of the country, as the hostilities along the border continued unabated.

Sirens sounded Wednesday in the northern city of Rosh Hanikra, although the army said that all of the rockets fired from Lebanon landed in open areas, with no reports of damage or injuries. Projectiles were also fired at other areas along the northern border, including at the Yiftah area, landing in open areas, according to the IDF.

The military said its fighter jets hit a number of sites belonging to the terror group, including a Hezbollah cell, and ground forces struck several terror cells along the Lebanon border. Photos and video from southern Lebanon showed thick black plumes of smoke rising into the air after the Israeli strikes, which reportedly were centered near Naqoura, across the border from Rosh Hanikra.

The strikes on Wednesday came after the IDF also carried out airstrikes in both Lebanon and Syria late Tuesday evening, following rocket fire from both countries.

On Tuesday evening, three rockets were fired from Syria at the Golan Heights, with two falling short in Syrian territory, and the third landing in an open area in Israel, according to the IDF. The military said troops responded with artillery shelling at the source of the fire.

Earlier in the day, a number of mortars and anti-tank missiles were fired from Lebanon at the northern Kibbutz Bar’am, along the border, causing damage. One missile landed on a building in the largely evacuated kibbutz, though no injuries were reported.

Damage caused by a rocket fired from Lebanon in Kibbutz Baram along the northern border on December 12, 2023. (Courtesy)

Projectiles from Lebanon were also fired at army posts in the area.

Early Wednesday morning, the IDF announced that it struck a number of sites in Lebanon in response, including a Hezbollah rocket launcher, and also carried out strikes in Syria, hitting Syrian Army infrastructure, including an observation post.

On Monday, war cabinet minister Benny Gantz told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the uptick in attacks by Hezbollah will require a firm Israeli response.

“Gantz stated that heightened aggression and increased attacks by Iranian-backed Hezbollah demand that Israel remove such a threat to the civilian population of northern Israel,” according to an Israeli readout.

Gantz added that “the international community currently has an important role to play, and it must act to ensure that the state of Lebanon stops such aggression along its border,” the statement said.

The message appeared to reflect an intensification of Israeli pressure on the US and other members of the international community to restore calm on the border through diplomatic means. Jerusalem is hoping that the US, France, or other foreign mediators will be able to broker the enforcement of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

The resolution called for the disarmament of all non-state armed forces in Lebanon as well as for the region between the Israel-Lebanon border and the Litani River to be free of all armed forces other than the Lebanese army and the UN’s peacekeeping mission UNIFIL.

Smoke billows from an IDF post on the border with Lebanon after it was hit by a rocket fired from Lebanon on December 12, 2023. (jalaa marey / AFP)

Over the years however, Hezbollah has repeatedly violated the resolution, amassing weapons and forces near the border with little enforcement by UNIFIL.

Hezbollah-led attacks along the northern border with Lebanon have been constant since the Israel-Hamas war began. Daily exchanges of fire with Hezbollah and allied Palestinian groups are raising fears of a broader conflagration.

On Monday night, Hezbollah fired a number of anti-tank missiles from southern Lebanon at a home in the northern Israeli town of Metula. According to Metula Regional Council head David Azoulay, some 15 homes in the northern city were damaged and one was completely destroyed in the attack.

There were no injuries in the attack. Metula has largely been evacuated of residents, given the Hezbollah attacks.

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in four civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of six IDF soldiers. On the Lebanese side, more than 120 have been killed, according to an AFP tally. Hezbollah on Wednesday said three more of its members were killed, bringing the group’s stated toll to 103 — some of whom were killed in Syria.

Israeli defense officials estimate that the Hezbollah death count is higher and that the terror group is covering up the true number of fatalities among its ranks. Sixteen other Palestinian terrorists have also been killed on the Lebanon side of the border, along with at least 14 civilians and three journalists.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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