IDF reservist killed as Hezbollah launches wave of drone attacks on northern Israel

Several explosive-laden UAVs impact Western Galilee as others downed by air defenses over Upper Galilee, IDF says; man caught looting homes in evacuated northern town

Sgt. First Class (res.) Valeri Chefonov. (Israel Defense Forces)
Sgt. First Class (res.) Valeri Chefonov. (Israel Defense Forces)

An IDF reservist was killed on Thursday morning as a result of an impact by an explosive-laden drone near Kibbutz Kabri in the Western Galilee, medics said, amid a series of attacks by Lebanese terrorists on northern communities.

The slain soldier was named as Sgt. First Class (res.) Valeri Chefonov, 33, from Netanya, the IDF said on Friday morning.

Chefonov served as the vehicle management officer of the 228th “Alon” Brigade’s 9308th Battalion.

The military said several drones that entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon hit the Western Galilee area, while others were downed by air defenses.

Television news broadcast footage of a house and two cars that were also damaged in the attack in Kabri, which has not been evacuated amid the months-long cross-border attacks by the Hezbollah terror group.

Kenny, a resident of the northern kibbutz, told Channel 12 that he was just starting to drive south with his wife when the alert sirens sounded. They pulled over and hurried to take cover inside their house, and moments later saw their vehicle destroyed by an apparent direct hit.

A car that was destroyed in a direct hit from an explosive-laden drone launched from Lebanon, Kibbutz Kabri, northern Israel, July 11, 2024. (Screenshot, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

“We heard sirens, a lot of sirens, three or four rounds, which is rare for Kabri. We decided to stop. I turned off the car and we ran straight into the house. Within a minute there was a massive boom and we could see from the house that the car was destroyed. It was a huge blast,” he said.

“It’s hard to digest, very hard,” his wife Ronit told the network. “It’s a miracle.”

The couple said the front of their house was also damaged in the drone attack.

It came around an hour after several suspected drones were shot down by air defenses over the Upper Galilee, as sirens rang out across northern Israel throughout the morning warning of incoming fire from Lebanon.

Hezbollah has traded almost daily fire with Israeli forces in support of Hamas since the Palestinian terror group’s October 7 attack on Israel triggered war in the Gaza Strip, stoking fears of a full-blown conflict in the north as well.

Earlier on Thursday, the IDF said it carried out an overnight drone strike on a truck in southern Lebanon’s Ayta ash-Shab. The truck had been used by Hezbollah to transport a launcher that fired a rocket at the Shtula area on Wednesday night, according to the military.

Fighter jets also struck several Hezbollah sites in Rab al-Thalathine, Odaisseh, Ramyeh and Khiam, the IDF added.

Several photos posted to social media on Thursday showed drones and their impact sites.

Also Thursday morning, the military opened an investigation into a Wednesday night drone attack launched by Hezbollah that lightly injured a soldier in the Golan Heights. The IDF said it was investigating why sirens did not sound in that attack and why it failed to intercept the drones.

According to the IDF, three drones were launched from Lebanon in the attack, impacting near the Beit Hameches junction in northern Israel.

The drone strikes came after Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Wednesday his group would accept Palestinian ally Hamas’s decision on Gaza hostage negotiations and would stop cross-border attacks on Israel if a ceasefire were reached.

A day earlier, Nasrallah met with a Hamas delegation headed by foreign relations chief Khalil al-Hayya, before talks resumed in Qatar on Wednesday toward a truce-for-hostage deal in the Gaza war, now in its 10th month.

An IAF warplane in the sky with the moon in the background as seen from the Israeli side of the border with Lebanon, July 10, 2024. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

On Tuesday evening, two Israeli civilians were killed in a rocket impact in the Golan Heights amid a barrage of some 40 rockets fired by Hezbollah, hours after one of the group’s operatives was killed in a purported Israeli strike on the Beirut-Damascus highway in Syria.

The couple from Kibbutz Ortal, Noa and Nir Baranes, both aged 46, are survived by their three teenage children. They were on their way home when their car was struck.

Meanwhile, police said on Thursday that charges would be filed against a man caught looting evacuated homes in the northern town of Kiryat Shmona.

The 37-year-old resident of Kiryat Gat in southern Israel was arrested last week after being seen in the area behaving suspiciously. Police found in his possession jewelry, laptops and tablets.

Police added that one of the houses looted had been damaged in a rocket strike.

Around 60,000 residents of towns and villages along Israel’s northern border have been forced from their homes since October due to near-daily cross-border rocket and anti-tank missile attacks by Hezbollah and other terrorists in southern Lebanon.

The attacks have persisted despite constant Israeli warnings that it could launch a war to push the Hezbollah threat away from the border and return normalcy to the region, with most evacuees facing the prospect of remaining homeless for the foreseeable future.

So far, the skirmishes have resulted in 12 civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 17 IDF soldiers and reservists, including Thursday’s attack. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 364 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing fighting, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 65 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and dozens of civilians have been killed.

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