Israel strikes Hezbollah sites as attacks on northern towns persist

Two horses killed when rocket hits family’s barn in Betzet; two anti-tank missiles strike community of Misgav Am

A smoke plume billows during Israeli bombardment on the village of Kfarshuba in south Lebanon near the border with Israel on June 26, 2024. (RABIH DAHER / AFP)
A smoke plume billows during Israeli bombardment on the village of Kfarshuba in south Lebanon near the border with Israel on June 26, 2024. (RABIH DAHER / AFP)

Israel struck Hezbollah targets in Lebanon Saturday as the terror group continued to hit northern communities with rockets and anti-tank missiles amid the growing threat of an escalation and all-out war.

Saturday morning saw two anti-tank guided missiles fired from southern Lebanon that targeted the community of Misgav Am. No injuries were reported. The army responded with artillery strikes to the source of fire.

A rocket fired in a Hezbollah barrage Friday night struck a barn inside the Western Galilee community of Betzet, killing two horses, after Israeli forces failed to down the projectile.

On Saturday afternoon Israeli fighter jets struck a building in southern Lebanon’s Houla where a group of Hezbollah operatives were gathered, the military said. The IDF said the operatives were spotted by troops of the 869th Combat Intelligence Collection Unit, and a short while later the airstrike was carried out.

Another building used by Hezbollah in Houla was also struck, the IDF added. It published footage of the strikes.

In Betzet, resident Idan Ishach Erez told Ynet the two horses belonged to her 14-year-old daughter Shahar, whose bedroom window looked out onto their pen.

“Who will look out for and care mentally for our children, who along with us were forced to hear the horses crying out in pain, while asking us to help them, but we couldn’t do more than put them to sleep to prevent their continued suffering,” she said.

She added that the rocket attack came as the family was eating Shabbat dinner on their porch, from where they rushed inside their home to take shelter.

“There was crying and hysteria. It did not matter [to my children] that the house was also struck. They cried about the horses, who are family members in all senses.”

Saturday saw Lebanon’s Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati tour south Lebanon, saying his country faced “psychological warfare” in clashes with Israel, but was working to reach calm on the border.

Mikati was checking in on matriculation exams, which were being held despite daily clashes between Israel and Hezbollah on the border.

“The army is Lebanon’s wall. If the army does not have a presence in southern Lebanon, the exams could not be held,” he was quoted as saying.

Lebanon’s military is deployed in south Lebanon but has no control over Hezbollah, which operates independently and unrestrained.

On Friday Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel was “not looking for war” with Hezbollah and that a diplomatic solution was preferable. Nevertheless, Gallant reiterated that Israel was making preparations and planning for a wider conflict, and said the ball was in Hezbollah’s court.

The defense minister’s remarks came hours after a tense cabinet meeting in which National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir criticized Gallant and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for supporting a deal with Hezbollah to avert all-out war in the north. Ben Gvir’s far-right Otzma Yehudit indicated it could bolt the government if Israel shied away from launching a full-scale assault on the Iran-backed Lebanese terror group.

Hezbollah on Friday claimed responsibility for dozens of barrages earlier in the day, including rockets fired at a military base near Kiryat Shmona, explosive-laden drones launched at another army position in the Western Galilee, and several more attacks along the border.

The Israel Defense Force said it launched interceptor missiles at three drones, but failed to down the devices. According to the military, damage was caused to a building in Western Galilee by one of the rockets, which also sparked several fires in northern Israel.

Rockets fired from southern Lebanon by Hezbollah are intercepted by the Iron Dome over the Upper Galilee on June 27, 2024. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

No injuries were caused in the attacks, although a home in the border community of Shlomi was damaged by one of the rockets. The IDF said it shelled the sources of fire with artillery and later carried out a “wave of attacks” against Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah has been shelling northern communities on a near-daily basis, beginning soon after Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel. Fearing Hezbollah would carry out a similar attack, Israel evacuated residents of the Lebanon border communities, some 60,000 of whom remain displaced.

Diplomatic efforts led by the United States have so far failed to remove Hezbollah forces from Israel’s northern border, where skirmishes with the Iran-backed terror group appear on the verge of full-blown war.

Politico on Thursday cited a United States official as saying that the risk of war was higher than it has been for weeks. According to the official, a major attack by either side could spark a war, which could happen with “little notice.” A United Nations official said on Wednesday war would be “potentially apocalyptic.”

Speaking to troops at an Iron Dome air defense system battery in northern Israel, Gallant said the country was developing two “significant” alternatives for Lebanon.

“[We are] preparing the military force… and this can happen quickly. On the other hand, the political alternative is being prepared, it is always better,” he said.

“We are not looking for war but we are ready for it. And we will reach a junction, it will be a T junction both for the enemy and for us. If [Hezbollah] chooses to go to war, we will know what to do. If it chooses to go to an agreement, we will respond to this matter,” Gallant said.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations said on Friday that if Israel embarks on a “full-scale military aggression” in Lebanon against Hezbollah, “an obliterating war will ensue.”

A damaged Israeli military position targeted by Hezbollah is seen on the top of Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights, where the borders between Israel, Syria and Lebanon meet on June 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Writing on X on Friday, the Iranian UN mission said that if Israel were to launch a war on Hezbollah, “all options, including the full involvement of all resistance fronts, are on the table.”

Iran’s “Axis of Resistance,” which includes Hezbollah, Hamas, Yemen’s Houthis, and other groups in Syria and Iraq, has been targeting Israel since October 7.

Iran itself also launched an unprecedented missile-and-drone strike on Israel on April 14, two weeks after an alleged Israel airstrike near Tehran’s embassy in Damascus killed several senior officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Iranian strike was almost entirely repelled by Israel, the United States and other allies, though a 7-year-old girl was seriously injured in the attack.

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