Strikes comes after explosion damages border wall, drone intercepted, Hezbollah fires at army bases; Lebanese terror group ‘fully prepared’ to join fight with Hamas
Israeli drones, artillery, and tanks struck targets in Lebanon on Friday after an apparent drone was intercepted, shots were fired at a number of military posts on the northern frontier and an explosion damaged the border security barrier, the Israel Defense Forces said.
The incidents were the latest skirmishes around the Lebanese border amid fears that the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group will open up a second front amid the war triggered by last weekend’s unprecedented Hamas invasion from the Gaza Strip, which killed more than 1,300 Israelis, most of them civilians.
It also came amid new warnings from Hezbollah and Iran that the fighting could escalate into a regional conflict.
The IDF said an explosion caused minor damage to a section of the security wall on the Lebanon border near the northern kibbutz of Hanita. Troops responded with artillery fire toward Lebanon in the area.
The home Front Command briefly issued an alert of a possible infiltration near Kibbutz Hanita, but soon sounded an all-clear.
Shortly after, several IDF posts along the border came under small arms fire.
The army said tanks shelled a Hezbollah post on the border in response and shelled the source of the gunfire with artillery.
A short while later, rocket warning sirens sounded in Kibbutz Misgav Am. The IDF later said air defenses intercepted an “unidentified target” — believed to be a drone — that crossed into Israeli territory.
In response to the apparent drone crossing into Israeli airspace, the IDF said it was carrying out drone strikes against Hezbollah sites.
Hezbollah claimed responsibility for targeting Israeli military posts on the Lebanon border with small arms fire, saying the attack came in response to “Israeli aggression,” in an apparent reference to artillery fire after a section of Israel’s border wall was damaged in an explosion.
An MSNBC reporter said that a cameraman with the Reuters news agency had been killed in the Israeli shelling.
Also Friday, the IDF declared some areas in the northern town of Metula a closed military zone.
The closed military zone only applies to sections of the town near the Lebanon border fence. Residents who have left the town in recent days were asked to not return.
“We are in continuous contact with army officials, hold daily situation assessment meetings and will continue to update on all developments,” the municipality said.
Security sources said the order came because of continuous riots and protests along the border by supporters of Hezbollah Palestinian terror groups.
Metula in recent days had recommended that residents leave the town amid the tensions.
Threats from Iran and Hezbollah
Amid the spiraling tensions, Hezbollah said Friday it would be “fully prepared” to join its Palestinian ally Hamas in the war against Israel when the time is right.
Hezbollah deputy chief Naim Qassem spoke as Hamas and Israel traded heavy fire for a seventh day.
Israel has retaliated for the unprecedented Hamas assault by striking Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, killing some 1,800 people, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. The IDF also said it killed some 1,500 terrorists inside Israel.
“We, as Hezbollah, are contributing to the confrontation and will (continue) to contribute to it within our vision and plan,” Qassem told a pro-Palestinian rally in Beirut’s southern suburbs.
“We are fully prepared, and when the time comes for action, we will take it,” he said.
The official, whose remarks coincided with a visit to Beirut by Iran’s foreign minister, rebuffed calls for Hezbollah to stay out of the war.
Outreach by “major countries, Arab countries, and envoys from the United Nations, directly and indirectly, asking us not to interfere in the battle, will not affect us,” he said, adding: “Hezbollah knows its duties.”
In Beirut’s southern suburbs on Friday, more than 1,000 Hezbollah supporters rallied for Gaza, carrying Palestinian flags and banners that read: “May God protect you.”
“(Hassan) Nasrallah, strike Tel Aviv,” they chanted, addressing the leader of the Shiite Muslim group.
Iran also issued threats of a wider confrontation.
The United States must rein in Israel to avert a regional spillover of the war with Hamas, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Friday in Beirut, adding Tehran was seeking to safeguard Lebanon’s security.
“America wants to give Israel a chance to destroy Gaza, and this is… a grave mistake,” Amir-Abdollahian said, adding, “If the Americans want to prevent the war in the region from developing, they must control Israel.”
Although Tehran has been a long-term backer of Hamas, Iranian officials have been adamant the Islamic Republic had no involvement in the terror group’s weekend attack on Israel.
“Lebanon’s security and peace is important to us,” Amir-Abdollahian said after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
“One of the goals of our trip is to stress on Lebanon’s security,” he added.
But he did not completely rule out the chance of an escalation.
During a news conference with his Lebanese counterpart later on Friday, he said: “If the systemic war crimes of the Zionist regime do not stop immediately, any possibility is conceivable.”
Also on Friday, Amir-Abdollahian met with Hezbollah chief Hasan Nasrallah to discuss “potential outcomes” and the “positions that must be taken” in light of the latest developments, according to a Hezbollah statement.
Israel has traded fire with Hezbollah and allied Palestinian factions in Lebanon in recent days, although the tit-for-tat attacks have remained limited.