Hezbollah launches largest attack on Israel since the start of the Gaza war

The fundamentalist militia fired around 170 rockets at targets over the border in response to the Israeli army killing a high-ranking military commander

A fire near Banias, in the Golan Heights, caused by the launch of a bomb drone from Lebanon, June 9.
A fire near Banias, in the Golan Heights, caused by the launch of a bomb drone from Lebanon, June 9.ATEF SAFADI (EFE)
Antonio Pita

The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah has continued to escalate in recent weeks. After the skirmishes that began in October in parallel with Israeli bombardments in Gaza — which have been evolving into a low-intensity war — the Lebanese militia launched its biggest rocket offensive against the north of the Jewish State on Wednesday morning, firing 170 projectiles in three volleys and setting off air raid alarms in various areas, including the city of Tiberias, more than 60 kilometers (37 miles) away on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. As such, it was the farthest Hezbollah has attacked from the border since the beginning of the current escalation eight months ago. The projectiles were largely intercepted by Israeli defense systems and no casualties have been reported. Hezbollah says it was targeting military positions and an arms factory in response to the killing Tuesday of one of its commanders, Taleb Abdala, in the southern Lebanese town of Yuaiya, along with three other militiamen. The Al Ajbar newspaper, linked to the fundamentalist group, described Abdala’s death as a “painful blow.”

Abdala was the commander of the central region of the border area, one of the hardest hit by the crossfire with Israeli forces, and the highest-ranking Hezbollah military commander killed since October “on the road to Jerusalem,” as the Lebanese militia terms those killed by Israeli fire. Abdala ranked even above Wissam al-Tawil, the number two of a unit of the elite Radwan force, who was killed in January in another Israeli strike.

The escalation has increased internal pressure in Israel to move to all-out war and raises the risk of a miscalculation that could trigger that eventuality. May saw the highest number of exchanges of fire between the two sides since October. The Israeli army has killed some 320 Hezbollah militiamen (a few dozen of them in Syria) and more than 80 civilians since the Hamas attacks of October 7, 2023, which sparked the Gaza war. Shells from Lebanon have killed around 30 people on the Israeli side of the border, 10 of them civilians. Around 94,000 Lebanese and 60,000 Israelis have been evacuated from the area, waiting for a panorama to emerge whereby they can return to their homes.

Hezbollah has upped the ante in recent days, with attacks that are also causing wildfires due to the climatic conditions. The militia’s drones, rockets and anti-tank projectiles are increasingly accurate, taking advantage of the knowledge the group has been acquiring on how to avoid interception.

Large-scale offensive

On June 5, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the northern border to warn that the army was “prepared for very intense action in the north.” “Whoever thinks he can hurt us and we will respond by sitting on our hands is making a big mistake, One way or another, we will restore security to the north,” Netanyahu said. Chief of the General Staff Herzi Halevi said the time is “approaching” when the government “will have to make a decision” on whether to launch an offensive in Lebanon.

Hezbollah’s number two, Naim Qassem, insisted that the militia does not want open conflict, but went on to warn that they are “ready for battle” and that “any Israeli extension of war will be met with devastation, destruction, and displacement in Israel.” “If Israel wants an all-out war, we are ready for it,” he added.

Hezbollah has reiterated since October that it will halt its offensive as soon as the bombing of Gaza ceases, and that it will adhere to any temporary ceasefire in the Strip. But Israel would no longer be content to return to the status quo prior to October 7, leaving armed men on the other side of the border — in violation of a United Nations resolution that both sides breach daily — and the risk of Hezbollah launching a surprise attack as Hamas did on that day.

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