Two hurt, fires rage after rocket and drone barrage launched at northern Israel

Hezbollah says attacks come as further response to killing of top officer; two more troops wounded in anti-tank missile attack

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

A large fire near the northern city of Safed, sparked by rockets launched from Lebanon on June 13, 2024. (David Cohen/Flash90)
A large fire near the northern city of Safed, sparked by rockets launched from Lebanon on June 13, 2024. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Hezbollah launched a barrage of rockets and a swarm of explosive-laden drones at northern Israel on Thursday, setting off sirens in numerous communities, sparking fires and injuring two people, as the terror group continued what it said was a response to the killing of a senior commander in an Israeli airstrike earlier in the week.

Another two soldiers were injured in a Hezbollah anti-tank guided missile attack in the Galilee Panhandle later on Thursday.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, some 40 rockets crossed the border from Lebanon in the major attack at around 2 p.m., setting off sirens near Safed in the Upper Galilee, and in the Golan Heights town of Katzrin.

The IDF said many of the rockets were shot down by air defenses, while others impacted several areas in northern Israel.

The rocket impacts and falling shrapnel following interceptions sparked at least 15 fires in the Galilee and Golan, mostly near Katzrin, the Fire and Rescue Service said.

Two men in their 20s were lightly hurt by shrapnel as a result of one of the rocket impacts in the Katzrin area, medical officials said.

At the same time, seven “suspicious aerial targets” — thought to be drones — were identified starting around 2 p.m., setting off sirens across northern Israel over the course of the following hour.

Four of the suspected drones were shot down by air defenses, the IDF said, adding that there were no injuries in the attack.

The major attack came following a series of false alarms in the morning hours. In some of the false alarms, interceptor missiles were launched at targets later deemed to have been “false identification.”

Hezbollah later took responsibility for rockets and drones, claiming to have targeted several military bases.

Interceptors target rockets and drones from Lebanon as seen from the northern Israeli city of Safed on June 13, 2024. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The terror group in a statement said it launched Katyusha and Falaq rockets at six army bases in northern Israel, and several more salvoes of explosive-laden drones at three more bases in the area.

Hezbollah said the attacks were a response to Tuesday night’s Israeli strike in southern Lebanon’s Jouaiyya, some 15 kilometers (9 miles) north of the border with Israel. The strike killed top commander Taleb Abdullah — its most senior officer to die by Israel’s hand since the violence started eight months ago — and three other operatives.

On Wednesday, Hezbollah fired some 215 rockets at northern Israel in an initial response to the strike that killed Abdullah.

The terror group began launching daily attacks on northern communities on October 8, saying it was doing so to support Hamas amid the war in Gaza.

Hezbollah vowed to intensify its attacks along the border to avenge Abdullah’s death.

A speech made near the coffin of Taleb Abdullah, known as Abu Taleb, a senior field commander of the Hezbollah terror group who was killed in an Israeli strike, during his funeral in Beirut’s southern suburbs on June 12, 2024. (Photo by ANWAR AMRO / AFP)

Following the attacks, Israeli fighter jets struck Hezbollah infrastructure in southern Lebanon’s Deir Seryan, the IDF said.

Amid the strikes, three more “suspicious aerial targets” — possibly drones — were shot down by air defenses over the Golan Heights.

Later on Thursday, two IDF soldiers were lightly and moderately wounded as a result of an anti-tank guided missile attack from Lebanon, the military said.

The troops were taken to a hospital for treatment. The attack took place in the Galilee Panhandle area.

Meanwhile, on Thursday morning the IDF said its fighter jets struck several buildings used by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon’s Ayta ash-Shab overnight.

Additional Hezbollah infrastructure was stuck in Aynata, the IDF added.

An American official said Thursday that the United States was very concerned about an escalation on the Israel-Lebanon border leading to a full-on war, adding that specific security arrangements are needed for the area and a ceasefire in Gaza is not enough.

Israel said that Hezbollah, its patron Iran, and the government of Lebanon bear “full responsibility” for the spiraling violence, while hinting that a further escalation could be in store.

“Lebanon and Hezbollah, under the guidance of Iran, bear full responsibility for the deterioration of the security situation in the north,” government spokesperson David Mencer said. “Whether through diplomatic efforts — or otherwise — Israel will restore security on our northern border.”

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire sparked by rockets launched from Lebanon, at the Biriya Forest in northern Israel, June 13, 2024. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Also Thursday, the military said that troops of the Kiryati Reserve Armored Brigade and 226th Reserve Paratroopers Brigade wrapped up a two-week drill simulating fighting in Lebanon.

The IDF said the drill simulated a combat scenario involving moving in complex terrain and advancing along a “mountainous route.”

The troops also practiced logistical support and communications in enemy territory, extracting wounded troops, and the operations of the brigades’ headquarters.

Troops of the 226th Reserve Paratroopers Brigade carry out a drill in northern Israel, in a handout image published by the IDF on June 13, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Since the day after Hamas’s October 7 attack, 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.

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in 10 civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 15 IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 342 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 62 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and dozens of civilians have been killed.

Israel has expressed openness to a diplomatic solution to the conflict, but has threatened to go to war against Hezbollah to restore security to the north of Israel, from which tens of thousands of civilians are currently displaced.

While Israel’s political echelon has not yet made a decision on launching an offensive in Lebanon, and turning the Gaza Strip into the secondary front, the IDF said it continues to target Hezbollah commanders behind attacks on Israel.

Reuters contributed to this report. 

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