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Hezbollah intensifies attacks on Northern Israel

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In the north: Across Wednesday and Thursday, northern Israel suffered the heaviest barrages of Hezbollah rocket, missile, and drone fire so far.

  • On Wednesday, some 215 rockets were fired on northern Israel, while yesterday at least 100 projectiles were fired, including 40 in a two-hour barrage.
  • The IDF confirmed that five Hezbollah UAVs had penetrated Israeli airspace, and that Hezbollah had at one point launched nine drones at the Gailee in a single minute.
  • About 300 sirens sounded in northern communities, while four people were injured in an incident adjacent to the community of Margoliot on the northern border. The incident included anti-tank missiles that seem to have hit a vehicle.
  • As a result of an anti-tank projectile attack in the area of Manara, one IDF soldier was moderately injured and an additional soldier was lightly injured.
  • In response, on Wednesday IAF fighter jets struck a launcher in the area of Hanine in southern Lebanon, and four terrorist infrastructure sites in the area of Yater.
  • Lebanese media also reports at least seven casualties from an Israeli airstrike in the town of Jannata in the Tyre district.
  • Hezbollah attacks continued this morning, with sirens sounding in communities in the north across the length of the border.

Gaza Strip: Several projectiles were also fired on Israel from the northern Gaza Strip last night. Some were intercepted by the IDF’s Aerial Defence Array, while others fell in open areas. No injuries were reported.

  • In response, says the IDF, “aircraft and artillery struck the launch sites from which the projectiles were fired, as well as a weapons storage facility in the vicinity.”
  • Troops operated in the Zeitoun area and Sabra neighbourhood yesterday, in which dozens of Hamas fighters were killed and 50 terrorist infrastructures destroyed. The IDF also destroyed an 800-metre Hamas tunnel, located just a kilometre from the Israeli border.
  • The IDF also continues operations in the central Gaza Strip and in Rafah. In Rafah, “troops eliminated a number of terrorists and located large quantities of weapons and underground tunnel shafts. A number of explosive devices, as well as Hamas terrorist infrastructure sites, were located and destroyed by IDF ground troops. In one incident, a terrorist that was identified approaching IDF troops was eliminated in an aerial strike.”
  • Earlier in the week, “troops eliminated a number of armed terrorist cells in close-quarters encounters in the [Rafah] area. IDF troops also located and destroyed structures rigged with explosives, as well as weapons, ammunition, military vests, and additional military equipment found in the area.”
  • In the central Strip, troops killed a number of Hamas fighters on Wednesday, including one who took part in October 7th.

Context: With the northern front now the most intense focus of kinetic activity, Israel is braced for even further escalation.

  • Hitherto, the assessment had been that both sides wished to avoid all-out war, and that Hezbollah was content to keep hostilities at a level which diverted resources and attention from Gaza but stopped short of a full escalation.
  • The calculus of Hezbollah’s Iranian patron, too, has traditionally been that Hezbollah’s massive reserve of rockets and missiles (far more sophisticated than Hamas’s) be held in reserve to deter any attack on Iran’s nuclear programme.
  • While strikes in Syria attributed to Israel have attempted to stem the flow of weapons resupply to Hezbollah, the organisation is now seemingly on a more aggressive footing.
  • On Wednesday night, Israel conducted a targeted strike on senior Hezbollah commander, Taleb Sami Abdullah. The IDF called Abdullah, the commander of the Nasr Unit, “one of Hezbollah’s most senior commanders in southern Lebanon.” He is understood to be the most senior Hezbollah commander killed in the last eight months, during which time he had been responsible for many attacks on northern Israel, particularly on the city of Kiryat Shmona.
  • Senior Hezbollah official Hashem Saffieddine then said during Abdullah’s funeral that “our response after the martyrdom of Abu Taleb will be to intensify our operations in severity, strength, quantity, and quality… Let the enemy wait for us on the battlefield.”
  • The large amounts of rocket, missile, and drone fire in concentrated time periods is significant in that it represents Hezbollah attempting to overwhelm Israel’s aerial defensive array.
  • Whilst this has been a significant escalation, it represents only a fraction of Hezbollah’s capacity. They are thought to have stockpiled 150,000 rockets, including advanced precision munitions with heavy payloads, capable of targeting strategic sites deep into Israel.
  • With much of the damage from Hezbollah projectiles coming in areas of nature and wildlife, the Israeli Parks Authority has said that over 11,000 acres of land has burned over the past two weeks, and nearly 15,000 acres since the start of the year. The fires are exacerbated by the heat wave Israel is currently experiencing.
  • French and American efforts to secure a diplomatic solution to the conflict on Israel’s northern border have been ongoing since Hezbollah joined Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 8th.
  • While these efforts have so far been unsuccessful, French President Macron, speaking yesterday at the G7 summit in Italy, said that “With the United States we agreed on the principle of a trilateral [contact group], Israel, the United States and France to advance on the roadmap that we proposed and we will do the same with the Lebanese authorities.”
  • French Ambassador to Israel Frédéric Journès told Israeli media “The big problem is ‘how do you start the negotiation?’ Here, it begins to be complicated because Israel says ‘we want to disassociate it with what is happening in Gaza,” Journès said, adding that Hizbullah refuses to agree to that.
  • US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Israeli counterpart Gallant this week. A Pentagon spokesperson said “We are concerned about an increase in activity in the north. We don’t want this to escalate to a broad regional conflict and we urge de-escalation.”

Looking ahead: The IDF is undertaking a series of exercises in which troops are trained for different combat frameworks in the northern arena.

  • According to the IDF, the exercises included “combat scenario(s) at varying ranges, while emphasizing the capabilities of movement in complex terrain, advancement along mountainous routes, the activation of multi-faceted fire and combat in various terrain.”