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Two Israeli civilians killed by Hezbollah rocket

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What’s happened: A husband and wife, Noa and Nir Barnes, from Kibbutz Ortal, were killed driving home yesterday afternoon when their car took a direct hit from a Hezbollah rocket in the northern Golan Heights.

  • The rocket set the car on fire, with rescue services unable to save them. They leave behind three children.
  • Hezbollah fired a barrage of around 40 rockets yesterday, mostly targeting IDF military sites on the Golan. Whilst some rockets were intercepted, other landed in open areas, causing several fires.
  • This latest escalation was in retaliation for the death of Yasser Nimer Qarnabash, a Hezbollah operative who was killed earlier in the day in an air strike in Syria, along the Damascus-Beirut road.
  • In response to the rocket fire on the Golan, the IDF attacked two Hezbollah anti-aircraft facilities, one deep inside Lebanon and the other in southern Lebanon.
  • Golan Regional Council Head Uri Kellner told Army Radio this morning: “I think that we need to request and to demand: We aren’t prepared to accept this situation in which we’ve been turned into some sort of playground for the enemy. The Golan Regional Council neither was nor will it be evacuated. But this is our unequivocal demand: for them to defend and allow ongoing life here.”
  • In the latest efforts at psychological warfare, Hezbollah released another video of drone footage highlighting numerous sensitive IDF military sites on the Golan.

Context: There have been several recent days of intense Hezbollah fire in the north. For example, last Thursday they launched over 150 rockets. These attacks are becoming more sustained and have reached into the lower Galilee.

  • The assessment remains that both Iran and Hezbollah are keen to maintain their war of attrition, but to keep it below the threshold of all-out war.
  • Whilst Hezbollah has a massive stockpile of rockets, it is running short of anti-tank missiles and is looking to Iran for resupplies.
  • According to the IDF, Qarnabash was involved in the weapons smuggling from Iran, through Syria. He was also a former bodyguard to Hezbollah leader Nasrallah, making the strike personal.
  • The targeted strike on Qarnabash is the latest example of Israeli intelligence identifying a senior Hezbollah figure and then using precise munitions to target him.
  • The IDF is taking a holistic approach to the weapons smuggling, targeting every stage of Hezbollah efforts to restock weapons from Iran. This includes the supply chain, storage, the launching cells, and their commanders.
  • Israeli media reports that as a result of several recent targeted attacks, Nasrallah has given instruction for commanders to stop using their mobile phones, which can be tracked.
  • According to Hezbollah, 367 of their fighters have now been killed, with dozens more likely injured.
  • Along with the two civilian deaths there was an additional IDF casualty in Gaza. First Sgt. Tal Lahat, a 21-year-old resident of Kfar Saba was killed by a sniper yesterday in the central Gaza Strip. Lahat served with the Maglan Unit in the IDF Commando Division
  • The IDF remains deployed in southern and central Gaza. Troops have now been operating in Shejaiya for the last 12 days. According to the IDF they have killed over 150 terrorists, discovered and destroyed 6 tunnels and captured a large array of weapons.
  • In addition, IDF troops conducted a counterterrorism operation against Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists who were operating inside UNRWA’s Headquarters and using it as a base to conduct attacks on IDF troops in the central Gaza Strip.
  • According to the IDF, “after a defined corridor was opened to facilitate the evacuation of civilians from the area, IDF troops conducted a targeted raid on the structure, eliminated terrorists in close-quarters combat, and located large amounts of weapons in the area.”
  • Meanwhile, the IDF are also continuing a “targeted, intelligence-based operational activity in the Rafah area in southern Gaza. Over the past day, the troops eliminated a number of terrorists, located weapons, and dismantled terrorist infrastructure in the area.”
  • Hostage negotiations have been resumed. The resumption was possible due to Hamas rescinding its earlier position insisting on an explicit Israeli commitment to a ceasefire. Some are interpreting this as proof that the sustained military campaign in Gaza is putting significant pressure on Hamas and its military commanders.

Looking ahead: The fighting in Gaza is soon expected to transition to the third phase which will require a smaller IDF presence. The focus will be on targeting senior Hamas commanders, cells planning attacks and attempts to reconstitute fighting units.

  • With the renewal of hostage negotiations, there is hope that a deal in the south could help bring quiet to the north too.
  • In the north, with each side seeking to re-establish their deterrence, the risk of a significant escalation remains in the balance.