Rocket fired at Kiryat Shmona as UN peacekeepers on Lebanon border fear escalation

IDF says it intercepted missile heading for northern border town; Lebanese man accused of funneling Iranian cash to Hamas found dead; UNIFIL urges diplomatic solution

Illustrative: An Iron dome anti-missile system near the border with Lebanon, in northern Israel, April 7, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)
Illustrative: An Iron dome anti-missile system near the border with Lebanon, in northern Israel, April 7, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday it had intercepted a rocket fired from Lebanon at the northern border city of Kiryat Shmona, as United Nations peacekeepers stationed along border warned that the ongoing violence between Israel and terror group Hezbollah could dangerously escalate.

The incoming missile was shot down by the Iron Dome air defense system, the IDF said.

Sirens sounded in Kiryat Shmona and nearby communities, though there were no reports of damage or injuries.

The head of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon expressed worries that hostilities on the border with Israel will continue to spiral out of control, calling for a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

“The danger of escalation is real,” Aroldo Lazaro said in a statement posted by UNIFIL. “There is no military solution to the current confrontation and violence; a political and diplomatic solution is the only way forward.”

The statement did not mention Hezbollah’s violations of UN Resolution 1701, which requires that the group’s armed wing not be allowed to operate in southern Lebanon.

Illustrative: A UNIFIL patrol at the site of an overnight Israeli strike in the southern Lebanese village of Kafra, on February 29, 2024. (Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

Israel has threatened to go to war to force the Iran-backed terror group away from the border if it does not retreat in line with that resolution and continues to threaten northern communities, from where some 70,000 people were evacuated to avoid the fighting.

Since October 8, Hezbollah-led forces have attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the border on a daily basis with rockets, drones, anti-tank missiles, and other means, with the group saying it is doing so to support Gaza amid the war there. Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy in Lebanon and Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are backed by Iran.

The IDF has regularly responded with strikes in Lebanon.

The war in Gaza erupted with Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into southern Israel by land, air, and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel launched a wide-scale military campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas and free the hostages, of whom 129 remain in captivity, some no longer alive.

As the clashes in the north continued, a Lebanese man under US sanctions for allegedly funneling money from Iran to Hamas was killed just outside Beirut, a security source told AFP.

The body of Mohammad Sarur was found Tuesday in a villa in the mountain town of Beit Mery, the source said, requesting anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

He had been struck by more than five bullets and was found in possession of an undisclosed sum of money that the killers did not touch, the source added.

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency (NNA) reported late Tuesday that the body of a 57-year-old Lebanese man, identified by initials that correspond to Sarur’s, had been found in an area near Beit Mery.

The security source confirmed to AFP that Sarur worked for financial institutions belonging to Hezbollah.

In August 2019, the US Treasury announced sanctions against several people including Sarur, accusing them of funneling “tens of millions of dollars” from the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards through Hezbollah in Lebanon “to Hamas for terrorist attacks originating from the Gaza Strip.”

The Treasury said Sarur “served as a middleman” between the Guards’ Quds Force and Hamas “and worked with Hezbollah operatives to ensure funds were provided” to Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz-a-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

“As of 2014, Sarur was identified as in charge of all money transfers” between the Quds Force and the Qassam Brigades, the Treasury added.

Some 3,100 rockets, missiles, and drones have been launched from Lebanon at northern Israel since the beginning of the war in Gaza. Another 35 have been fired from Syria, according to the IDF.

Around 4,700 Hezbollah positions have been hit by the IDF, according to the military.

Israeli forces check a building that was hit by a Hezbollah rocket in Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel near the Lebanon border, on March 27, 2024. (Jalaa MAREY / AFP)

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in eight civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 10 IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 273 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 53 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and at least 60 civilians, three of whom were journalists, have been killed.

Tensions in the region have been high since an alleged Israeli strike in Damascus last week killed seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members, among them a senior Quds Force commander, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi. Iran has vowed revenge.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah has said it supports Iran’s right to “punish” Israel, and in televised remarks on Friday, its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said a response was coming.

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