Officer, 2 soldiers killed in clash with terrorists on Lebanon border; mortars fired

Two gunmen killed as third retreats to Lebanon, Islamic Jihad claims responsibility; IDF hits Hezbollah targets after clashes along border, killing three members of terror group

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

Israeli forces launch artillery fire towards southern Lebanon from the border zone in northern Israel on October 9, 2023, after mortar fire and an infiltration attempt from Lebanon. (Photo by Jalaa MAREY / AFP)
Israeli forces launch artillery fire towards southern Lebanon from the border zone in northern Israel on October 9, 2023, after mortar fire and an infiltration attempt from Lebanon. (Photo by Jalaa MAREY / AFP)

A senior Israel Defense Forces officer and two soldiers were killed during a clash with several gunmen who infiltrated into Israeli territory from Lebanon on Monday afternoon. A number of mortars were also fired at northern Israel, as fighting continued in southern Israel in the wake of a major attack launched by the Palestinian Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip.

The IDF said the deputy commander of the 300th “Baram” Regional Brigade, Lt. Col. Alim Abdullah, 40, from the northern Druze village of Yanuh-Jat was killed during the clashes with the gunmen.

Another two troops were killed in the exchange, and others were wounded, the IDF said.

Hezbollah confirmed three of its members were also killed in Israeli retaliatory strikes on southern Lebanon, with the terror group threatening revenge.

The Gaza Strip-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group claimed responsibility for the armed infiltration on its Telegram channel, saying this was part of the ongoing war between Israel and terror groups in Gaza.

The military’s Home Front Command ordered residents of 28 towns in northern Israel, close to the Lebanon border, to remain in bomb shelters until further notice. The order was lifted several hours later.

The clashes between the gunmen and Israeli troops occurred near the northern Bedouin Israeli town of Arab al-Aramshe and the Lebanese village of Dhayra.

The IDF said it spotted several armed men infiltrating into the country, and in a later statement said that two of them had been killed, while a third fled back into Lebanon.

“The incident is over and there is no fear of another security incident,” the military said.

The Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya said it had admitted six people injured in the clashes, including one in critical condition, another in serious condition, two in moderate condition and two in light condition. Three of them, including Abdullah, later died.

The army said that it used combat helicopters and drones to carry out strikes against three Hezbollah posts in the area amid the clashes.

The IDF said it carried out artillery shelling in the area.

“The IDF is prepared for all scenarios, and will continue to protect the residents of the State of Israel,” the military added.

Hezbollah named the slain members as Housam Mohammad Ibrahim, Ali Raif Fatuni, and Ali Hassan Hadraj.

A member of the terror group told Lebanon’s al-Jadeed network that it will respond to the shelling of the Ayt al-Shaab area “in accordance with the deterrence rules it has imposed.”

A reporter for the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar station published a video in which gunfire and several explosions can be heard.

An image published by the reporter also showed a large blast in the area, and another clip circulating on social media shows a Hezbollah observation post being targeted.

A Hezbollah official told Reuters it had no part in a cross-border raid.

UN peacekeepers in Lebanon said in a post on X that they “detected explosions near Al-Boustan in southwest Lebanon.”

“While we are working to gather more information, UNIFIL Head & Force Commander Maj Gen Lázaro is in contact with the involved parties, urging them to exercise maximum restraint & utilize UNIFIL’s liaison and coordination mechanisms to prevent further escalation and loss of life,” they added.

Hours after the infiltration, the IDF said a number of projectiles were launched from Lebanon at northern Israel, causing no injuries. No further details were given.

The IDF said it responded with artillery strikes in southern Lebanon.

Before the infiltration, incoming rocket sirens sounded in the Upper Galilee towns of Iftach and Ramot Naftali.

The IDF later confirmed that two mortars were launched from Lebanon at northern Israel in the earlier attack.

One projectile landed in an open area, causing no injuries, and the other projectile landed short in Lebanon, the IDF said.

On Sunday morning, Hezbollah launched dozens of rockets at three Israeli positions in the contested Mount Dov region, causing damage but no injuries.

Hezbollah claimed to have fired the rockets in solidarity with the Hamas attack in southern Israel.

The IDF responded with artillery shelling and drone strikes against Hezbollah sites.

An apartment building hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip by Palestinian terrorists in the southern city of Ashkelon, October 9, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Hezbollah has largely sat out previous rounds of fighting between Israel and Palestinian terror groups, though it allowed local Palestinian factions to operate out of its territory in southern Lebanon.

But some have feared the Lebanon-based terror group will open up a second front amid the massive invasion by hundreds of Hamas terrorists from the Gaza Strip who entered Israel early Saturday.

Terrorists rampaged through the south of the country on Saturday morning, killing over 800 people, injuring over 2,500, and taking over 100 captives to Gaza. In addition, terrorists took hostages inside Israel in multiple locations and it took security forces long hours to slowly gain control.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah erected two tents in the Mount Dov area on the border some months ago, but later took one down and threatened to attack if Israel took steps to forcibly dismantle the other one.

On Sunday, a military source said the tent was struck in a drone strike, and warning shots were fired later toward Hezbollah members who were attempting to rebuild it.

Israel and Lebanon largely abide by the UN-recognized Blue Line. The line is marked with blue barrels along the border and in some areas is several meters from the Israeli fence, which is built entirely within Israeli territory.

Tensions have remained high with Hezbollah in recent months, with the deployment of dozens of Hezbollah posts along the Lebanese border, including the tent, and increasing patrols and presence by terror group operatives in the area.

Other recent incidents on the Lebanese border have included camouflaged Hezbollah members walking along the border in violation of a UN resolution, and Hezbollah activists crossing the Blue Line (though not the Israeli border fence) on numerous occasions, including attempts to damage the border fence and army surveillance equipment.

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