After sending residents of every town in northern Israel scrambling for shelter amid reports of an apparent massive drone attack from Lebanon, the IDF has admitted the incident was a false alarm.
Shortly before 6:30 p.m. local time on Wednesday, air raid sirens sounded across the north, with reports of 15-20 drones from Lebanon supposedly crossing into Israeli territory. About 10 minutes later, further sirens sounded amid a suspected terrorist infiltration alert in the northern town of Ma’ayan Baruch, and later in Ma’alot Tarshiha.
With Israel still reeling from Hamas terrorists storming across the border on Saturday and massacring at least 1,200 Israelis in border towns, the prospect of a similarly murderous mass invasion by Hezbollah along the northern border sparked panic in a country on edge.
The IDF Home Front Command asked residents of border communities in the Galilee, Golan Heights and Haifa area to shelter “until further notice,” fearing a “large-scale attack.”
Local media outlets breathlessly reported of manned drones and paragliders crossing the border, with some TV reporters claiming to hear explosions and something striking the ground in the border town of Metula. Footage on Channel 12 news appeared to show a drone moving across the sky, though it was later revealed to have been an Israeli craft.
Close to 90 minutes later, with more than 2 million Israelis holed up in shelters in the interim, the IDF said the entire incident was a false alarm.
IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in a public statement that there was no security incident in northern Israel, adding that the military was investigating what caused alert sirens to sound across the region.
“There was an error, and we are investigating it — we will check if it was a technical fault or human error,” said Hagari. “The bottom line is I want to calm the public and say that at this stage, there is no major security incident in the north.”
Nevertheless, he said, the public should always seek shelter when air raid sirens sound: “Listen to the guidelines, they save lives. It’s good that you sought shelter.”
The IDF also noted that sirens that had sounded in the Carmel region, south of Haifa, were set off by a long-range rocket launched from the Gaza Strip, which landed in an open area, causing no damage.
The rocket launched toward the Carmel region, some 120 kilometers from the Gaza Strip, appeared to have been the most distant location in Israel that Hamas has targeted in the current round of fighting. Hamas has in its arsenal rockets that can likely reach 250 kilometers.
In a second adjacent incident, shortly after the mass sirens in the north on Wednesday, the Home Front Command’s missile alert app accidentally sent a false alarm instructing everyone across the country to seek shelter around 7:45 p.m., despite no sirens sounding. A few minutes later, the IDF admitted that this too was an error.
“This is a mistake, there is no such instruction,” the army said, adding that it was caused by “human error” and not a cyber attack — despite such claims from Palestinian hackers.
While Wednesday’s air raid sirens in the north were a false alarm, there have been a number of incidents on the Israel-Lebanon border since war broke out with Hamas on Saturday.
Earlier Wednesday, Hezbollah launched anti-tank guided missiles at an Israeli army post on the border. The IDF said it responded with a drone strike on a post belonging to the terror group.
On Tuesday, 15 rockets and an anti-tank guided missile were fired toward Israel, setting off sirens in a number of towns. No injuries were reported. Hamas later claimed responsibility for the rocket fire, and Hezbollah said it had carried out the ATGM attack. The IDF shelled several posts in Lebanon in response.
A day earlier, Israeli forces clashed with terrorists on the Lebanon border. The clashes left three Israeli soldiers and two Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists dead. Three Hezbollah members were killed in Israel’s retaliatory bombing against the terror group’s sites.
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.
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 fear the Lebanon-based terror group will open up a second front amid the war triggered by Saturday’s unprecedented invasion of Israel by hundreds of Hamas terrorists from the Gaza Strip.
Amid the tensions in northern Israel, many residents of towns close to the border with Lebanon have left their homes over the past day, fearing further rocket attacks.
On Tuesday night, officials in Israel’s northern-most community of Metula urged residents to leave, fearing they could find themselves targeted if Hezbollah launched an assault against Israel.