IDF says probing reports of 4 Lebanese civilians killed

Israeli civilian killed in anti-tank missile attack from Lebanon amid escalation

Rocket blast hits car in Kiryat Shmona; IDF says reservist soldier dies of wounds after accidental tank roll-over last week; Halevi: IDF ‘ready at any moment’ for northern offensive

Israeli forces make their way to the scene of an anti-tank guide missile attack from Lebanon on a vehicle near Kibbutz Yiftah, near the border with Lebanon, November 5, 2023. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Israeli forces make their way to the scene of an anti-tank guide missile attack from Lebanon on a vehicle near Kibbutz Yiftah, near the border with Lebanon, November 5, 2023. (David Cohen/Flash90)

An Israeli civilian was killed in an anti-tank guided missile attack launched from Lebanon at an area near the northern community of Kibbutz Yiftah on Sunday, said the Israel Defense Forces’ Arabic-language spokesman, Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee.

The Hezbollah terror group claimed responsibility for the missile fire, saying it attacked a group of soldiers.

Adraee said in a post on X that “Hezbollah continued to attack Israeli military sites and civilian towns, without distinguishing between civilians and military personnel.”

“One of the attacks resulted in the death of an Israeli citizen,” he added.

The IDF said its forces responded by striking the source of the missile fire.

On Sunday evening, a rocket launched from Lebanon into Israel exploded in Kiryat Shmona, setting a car ablaze. No injuries were reported.

Later Sunday, a number of rockets launched from Lebanon also landed in Kiryat Shmona, causing damage. According to the municipality, at least one home was hit.

First responders said there were no reports of injuries. Kiryat Shmona has been evacuated, along with dozens of other communities along the Lebanon border, amid repeated Hezbollah rocket and missile attacks on northern Israel.

In a statement Sunday, Hezbollah said the rocket barrage came in response to an alleged Israeli airstrike on a civilian car in southern Lebanon earlier, killing a woman and three young children.

The IDF said it was investigating the reports.

“Earlier today, the IDF struck a vehicle in Lebanese territory that was identified as a suspicious vehicle containing several terrorists,” the IDF said in response to a ToI query on the matter.

“The claim that there were several uninvolved civilians in the vehicle is being examined. The event is under review,” the IDF added.

On Sunday, the official Lebanese agency NNA reported that four relatives of a local journalist were killed in an alleged Israeli strike in southern Lebanon, adding that the journalist was also wounded. The agency said the four victims are the sister of radio correspondent Samir Ayoub and her three grandchildren. They were following the journalist’s car in their own vehicle when they were killed, according to the report.

Four Lebanese rescue workers were also reportedly injured in a separate alleged Israeli bombing in southern Lebanon. NNA claimed that an Israeli strike targeted two ambulances belonging to the Risala Scout association, which operates rescue teams and is affiliated with the Shiite Amal movement, a Hezbollah ally. The report could not be independently verified.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in an evening press conference Sunday that the military “carried out a number of strikes in southern Lebanon, against terror infrastructure, terror squads and vehicles used by terror squads.”

The incidents marked an escalation of skirmishes along the northern border amid repeated rocket and missile attacks by Hezbollah and allied Palestinian terror factions from southern Lebanon on northern Israel.

Since the outbreak of the war on Hamas following its shock October 7 assault on Israel, the Iran-backed Hezbollah has conducted and overseen daily assaults on Israel’s northern border from Lebanon, but has stopped short of launching a full-scale campaign against the country. Israel, too, has attempted to walk a fine line, responding with significant firepower to attacks and attempted attacks, while trying to avoid actions that would escalate the conflict as it seeks to keep its focus on Gaza.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said Sunday that the military was “ready at any moment to go on the offense in the north.”

“We set a goal of restoring a significantly better security situation on the borders, not only in the Gaza Strip,” said Halevi during an assessment at the 210th Division in northern Israel Sunday.

“We are ready at any moment to go on the offense in the north. We understand that it can happen, and we trust you that the defense here is strong,” he added.

Illustrative: Smoke billows in the Upper Galilee after an exchange of fire between Israel and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, near Kibbutz Yiftah on Israel’s border with Lebanon on November 5, 2023. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

The IDF said earlier Sunday that a reservist soldier who was critically wounded in an accidental tank roll-over in northern Israel on October 29th has died of his wounds. He was named as Master Sgt. (res.) Naaran Eshchar, 33, of the 181st Armored Brigade’s 71st Battalion, from Shadmot Mehola. Another soldier was killed in the same incident, and two others were wounded.

The fatality on Sunday brought the civilian death toll on the Israeli side of the Lebanon border to two in attacks by Hezbollah and Palestinian gunmen since October 7. Six IDF soldiers have also been killed in that timeframe.

On the Lebanese side, at least 81 people have been killed, according to an AFP tally. The toll includes at least 60 Hezbollah members, eight Palestinian terrorists, a number of civilians and one Reuters journalist.

Earlier Sunday, anti-tank guided missiles from Lebanon were also fired at an area near the northern community of Avivim, and rockets were launched at the Malkia area on the border. No injuries were caused in those attacks, and the IDF said troops responded with artillery shelling toward the sources of the fire.

A drone approaching Israeli airspace from Lebanon was also intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system Sunday. The IDF said the drone was tracked throughout its flight by Air Force systems, and was intercepted “deep within Lebanon,” without ever penetrating Israeli airspace.

There were also a number of rocket siren alerts in northern communities over the course of Sunday, with at least one interception of a suspicious target. There have also been several false alarms in the area, amid the heightened tensions.

Warning alerts sounded in the northern village of Arab al-Aramshe on the Lebanon border, Avivim, Yir’on, Mattat and Misgav Am, close to the Lebanon border.

Colleagues of four paramedics of the Lebanese Amal Movement civil defense teams, allied with Hezbollah, wounded after their ambulances were hit in a strike in the town of Tayr Harfa. (AFP)

The IDF said incoming rocket sirens that sounded in Mattat were caused by an Iron Dome interceptor launch, which fired at a suspicious target that entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon. It was unclear what the target was, and whether it was actually intercepted.

In Misgav Am, the warning alerts Sunday were a false alarm, the military said. Misgav Am sits on the Israel-Lebanon border, an area that saw several bouts of cross-border shelling on Saturday.

Visiting the north on Saturday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah against “making a mistake.”

“We are on the defensive in the north and attacking with full force in the Gaza Strip, this is our priority,” Gallant said in remarks provided by his office. “We are not interested in getting into a war in the north, but we are ready for any task. The Air Force maintains most of its strength for the Lebanese arena, against Hezbollah.”

Gallant said Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar “made a mistake and sealed the fate of Hamas and the fate of Gaza” with the deadly October 7 assault on southern communities that claimed the lives of some 1,400 people, most of the civilians, and which saw the abduction of over 240.

“If Nasrallah makes a mistake, he will seal the fate of Lebanon,” Gallant added.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (center) speaks with officers at the 146th Division’s headquarters near the Lebanon border, November 4, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

In his speech Friday, the terror chief said Hezbollah’s ongoing low-level conflict with Israel on the border since October 7 was “not the end” and warned Israel to “not go any further” in Gaza. But he also signaled that the war in the Strip was not entirely his concern, saying: “The October 7 attack was a 100% Palestinian operation, planned and executed by Palestinians for the Palestinian cause; it has no relation at all to any international or regional issues.”

As he spoke, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a threat of his own, warning Israel’s “enemies in the north” not to make the costly mistake of escalating the war. “You cannot imagine how much this will cost you.”

In Israel on Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a warning. “With regard to Lebanon, with regard to Hezbollah, with regard to Iran, we have been very clear from the outset that we are determined that there not be a second or third front opened in this conflict. President Biden said on day one to anyone thinking of opening a second front, taking advantage of the situation, don’t. And we’ve backed up those words…  with practical deeds.”

In his speech Friday, Nasrallah boasted that Hezbollah’s military actions on the border had drawn IDF forces away from the war against Hamas.

A man sitting in a shop watches the televised speech of Lebanon’s Hezbollah chief Hasan Nasrallah, in the West Bank town of Tubas on November 3, 2023 (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

“Our operations on the border have forced the IDF to divert forces, weapons and equipment from Gaza and the West Bank to the Lebanese front. One-third of the IDF is now amassed on our border,” he claimed.

Hamas terrorists launched an unprecedented October 7 onslaught inside Israel by bursting through the Gaza border, killing over 1,400 people — most of them civilians, slaughtered in their homes — and abducting over 240 to Gaza. Israel responded by launching and all-out war against Hamas, recruiting over 300,000 reservists as it pounds Gaza terror targets and launching a ground operation over the past week that is encircling Gaza City — Hamas’s main base of operations.

Israel has also diverted massive forces to the north even as it has done the same in the south, to prepare for the possibility of Hezbollah trying to replicate Hamas’s atrocities in southern communities. It has also ordered the evacuation of border communities to protect residents.

Gianluca Pacchiani and AFP contributed to this report.

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