Slain soldier named as Staff Sgt. Omer Sarah Benjo

Soldier killed, 8 hurt as rocket barrage hits Safed; IDF launches ‘widespread strikes’

One of 11 Grads fired from Lebanon hits army base in northern city; no immediate claim of responsibility in presumed Hezbollah attack; Lebanese media: 4 killed in Israeli response

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

  • Staff Sgt. Omer Sarah Benjo, who was killed in a rocket attack from Lebanon on Safed on February 14, 2024 (IDF)
    Staff Sgt. Omer Sarah Benjo, who was killed in a rocket attack from Lebanon on Safed on February 14, 2024 (IDF)
  • Israeli security forces at the scene where a rocket fired from Lebanon impacted in the city of Safed on February 14, 2024. (David Cohen/Flash90)
    Israeli security forces at the scene where a rocket fired from Lebanon impacted in the city of Safed on February 14, 2024. (David Cohen/Flash90)

An Israeli soldier was killed and eight others were wounded as a barrage of at least 11 rockets fired from Lebanon slammed into Safed and an army base in the northern city, the military and medical officials said.

In response to the attack, the Israel Defense Forces said it launched “widespread” airstrikes against targets belonging to the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

There was no immediate claim for the rocket fire, although it was believed to have been carried out by Hezbollah, which has been launching daily rocket, missile, and drone attacks on northern Israel in recent months, saying it is doing so in support of the Hamas terror group in Gaza, against whom Israel is waging war.

The IDF said one rocket hit the Northern Command headquarters base in Safed, some 13 kilometers (8 miles) from the Lebanon border.

Safed’s municipality said rockets additional rockets hit the city’s industrial zone and an area near Ziv Hospital.

One IDF soldier was killed and eight others were wounded in the attack on the base, according to the army and medical officials.

Staff Sgt. Omer Sarah Benjo, who was killed in a rocket attack from Lebanon on Safed on February 14, 2024 (IDF)

The slain soldier was later named as Staff Sgt. Omer Sarah Benjo, 20, of the 91st Division’s 869th Combat Intelligence Collection unit, from Ge’a.

The director general of the Magen David Adom ambulance service, Eli Bin, told the Kan public broadcaster that as medics scanned buildings that were hit by the rocket fire, the body of a woman was discovered.

Ziv Hospital said eight injured people were brought to the emergency room following the rocket attacks on the city, including one person listed in serious condition.

The seriously wounded man was later identified by the IDF as a reservist of the Computer Service Directorate.

The IDF said several more soldiers were also hurt in the attack.

Ziv Hospital said one was in moderate condition, and six others were being treated for light injuries.

Sirens had sounded several times in Safed and nearby communities close to the Lebanon border amid the barrage.

Israeli security forces at the scene where a rocket fired from Lebanon impacted in the city of Safed on February 14, 2024. (David Cohen/Flash90)

A total of 11 unguided Grad rockets were fired in the attack, according to military assessments.

Nine slammed into open areas, while two hit infrastructure and were not intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, including one that struck the IDF base, killing Benjo.

Benjo and several more soldiers were running to a bomb shelter when the rocket struck the base. The IDF was investigating if there was enough time from when sirens sounded for people in Safed to seek shelter.

Several hours later, the IDF said fighter jets carried out a “widespread” wave of airstrikes in Lebanon, targeting Hezbollah sites, including some belonging to the terror group’s elite Radwan Force.

The targets included buildings, command centers, and other infrastructure belonging to the terror group in Jabal al-Braij, Kfar Houneh, Kafr Dunin, Aadchit and Souaneh, according to the IDF.

The strikes in towns deeper inside Lebanon — notably Kfar Houneh — have been rare since the border fighting started more than four months ago.

The Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Meyadeen reported that a woman and her two sons were killed in an IAF strike on Souaneh, and a second Hezbollah-linked site, Al-Manar, said one person was killed in Aadchit.

Since October 8, Hezbollah-led forces have attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the border on a near-daily basis, with the group saying it is doing so to support Gaza amid the war there.

Smoke rises after an Israeli air strike in southern Lebanon, as seen from the Israeli side of the border, February 8, 2024. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in six civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of ten IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 195 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 29 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and some two dozen civilians, three of whom were journalists, have been killed.

War erupted in Gaza with Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing over 250 hostages, mostly civilians. Entire families were executed in their homes, and over 360 people were slaughtered at an outdoor festival, many amid horrific acts of brutality by the terrorists.

Israel has warned it will no longer tolerate the presence of Hezbollah along the Lebanon frontier, where it could attempt to carry out an attack similar to the massacre committed by Hamas on October 7.

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