‘Precarious calm’ on northern front as truce with Hamas takes hold

Hezbollah has hinted it will hold its fire, though there has been no reciprocal commitment by Israel; Biden said to ask Netanyahu to work to keep north calm during Gaza pause

An Israeli artillery unit stationed near the border with Lebanon, northern Israel, November 22, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)
An Israeli artillery unit stationed near the border with Lebanon, northern Israel, November 22, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

Calm returned to Lebanon’s southern border Friday as a temporary truce took effect in the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on October 7, Lebanon’s southern border with Israel has witnessed deadly exchanges of fire, primarily involving the Israeli army and Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group, an Iranian proxy, as well as Palestinian terror groups.

Hezbollah has signaled it will stop its attacks on Israel, which it has launched on a daily basis throughout the Jewish state’s war with Hamas in Gaza, during the days of the truce.

Though Jerusalem has not committed to reciprocating, US President Joe Biden reportedly told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make efforts to ensure calm on the northern border during the truce.

“A precarious calm reigned on the southern border, with the humanitarian truce in Gaza coming into effect at 7:00 in the morning (0500 GMT),” Lebanon’s official National News Agency reported.

The four-day truce in the Gaza Strip will see Hamas exchange 50 hostages seized from Israel during the October 7 massacre for 150 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, all of them women and minors.

Smoke rises in southern Lebanon after IDF strikes targets in the country following Hezbollah attacks on Israel, November 23, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

An AFP journalist in Lebanon’s Marjayoun border region said he had heard exchanges of fire 10 minutes prior to the truce before the guns fell silent.

A resident in the Lebanese Alma al-Shaab border region also said the situation was calm and that he could no longer hear Israeli planes or reconnaissance drones flying overhead.

On the eve of the truce, Hezbollah had intensified its cross-border attacks on the Israeli military, which in response pounded targets in southern Lebanon.

Thursday saw the most intense fighting since the beginning of the war, with at least 80 rockets fired into Israel by mid-afternoon.

In one salvo after midday, the IDF said some 35 rockets launched from Lebanon crossed the border into Israel. Hezbollah claimed responsibility and said it had launched 48 rockets at an army base near Safed.

Hezbollah also took responsibility for several anti-tank guided missile and mortar attacks at different targets in northern Israel, including a strike against Kibbutz Menara in the Upper Galilee that caused damage to some buildings.

Puffs of smoke are seen as rockets launched from Lebanon into Northern Israel are intercepted by an anti-missile system, as seen from the northern Israeli city of Tzfat, November 23, 2023. (David Cohen/Flash90)

On Friday, the powerful Iran-backed Shiite group claimed responsibility for 22 attacks on Israeli positions from southern Lebanon, where it lost seven of its fighters during the day.

Hezbollah says it has been acting in support of Hamas since the war began on October 7, when thousands of terrorists brutally massacred some 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians, and took some 240 hostages.

Since the cross-border exchanges began, 107 people have been killed on the Lebanese side, according to an AFP tally. The toll also includes at least 14 civilians, three of them journalists.

Hezbollah announced on Wednesday the death of its 79th fighter killed since the war’s outbreak. Seven Hezbollah members have also been killed in Syria.

On the Israeli side, six soldiers and three civilians have been killed.

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