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Times Of Israel
Times Of Israel
16 Dec 2023

NextImg:Explosives-laden drone launched from Lebanon strikes near northern Israel town

An apparently explosive-laden drone launched from Lebanon toward Israel struck near the northern community of Margaliot on Saturday morning, the military said.

A second drone was intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The IDF did not immediately publish information on potential casualties in the drone attack.

Troops responded with artillery shelling on targets in southern Lebanon, amid the ongoing exchanges of fire with the Hezbollah terror group along the northern border.

Israel has warned it will no longer tolerate the presence of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group along the northern frontier, after some 3,000 Hamas terrorists stormed the border from the Gaza Strip on October 7, murdering 1,200 people and kidnapping over 240 — mainly civilians.

Since that date, Hezbollah-led forces have attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the border on a near-daily basis, though they have attempted to limit the scope of the attacks in an apparent bid to avoid all-out war.

An Israeli artillery unit fires from a position in Upper Galilee in northern Israel towards southern Lebanon, on December 11, 2023. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

Meanwhile, CNN reported Friday that Israeli officials have been rebuked by their US counterparts over strikes that have hit Lebanese military positions.

While some of the strikes may have been accidental, an official told the network that they believed the intention of others may have been less clear.

“The United States has been clear, we do not want to see this conflict spread to Lebanon and we continue to urge the Israelis to do all they can to be targeted and avoid civilians, civilian infrastructure, civilian farmland, the UN, and the Lebanese Armed Forces,” a spokesperson for the US National Security Council told CNN.

“The United States is proud of its partnership with the LAF, an essential institution, not only to the stability and security of Lebanon, but of the entire region,” the spokesperson said.

An IDF spokesperson told CNN that any harm caused to the Lebanese military or civilians was not on purpose.

“In response to Hezbollah’s aggression, the IDF strikes the terrorist organization’s military infrastructure and works to eliminate any threat to the State of Israel,” said IDF spokesperson Nir Dinar.

“Any harm to civilians and other forces is unintentional. Such incidents are reviewed in order to improve operational precautions and to ensure accountability when necessary,” Dinar said.

The report said that American officials were frustrated by the incidents as they believe the Lebanese military will need to play a key role in any eventual resolution to the fighting on Israel’s northern border.

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz on Friday warned that Israel would be forced to push the Hezbollah terror group away from the Lebanese border if the international community could not do so through diplomatic means.

Gallant warned, “If the world doesn’t get Hezbollah away from the border, Israel will do it.”

In an apparent warning to Hezbollah, the IDF issued a statement Friday saying it was carrying out intensive training in northern Israel.

IDF troops train in northern Israel, in a handout photo published by the military on December 15, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The army said the drills, dubbed “precious time,” are aimed at preparing the soldiers for “additional possible scenarios on the northern border,” while carrying out their routine operations in the area.

It said the troops are training during the day and at night, in open and urban areas, and from the level of platoons to battalions. The soldiers were also being taught how to use armored vehicles and other weaponry.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Friday that “the citizens of Israel who have been evacuated from the north have to be able to return to their homes and have to be able to do so with a true sense of security. And that means dealing with the threat that comes from the other side of the border.”

However, he said, Washington still believes “that threat can be dealt with through diplomacy and does not require the launching of a new war.”

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (right) meets with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in Tel Aviv, December 14, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Sullivan conceded that such an effort requires “deterrence as well, because we need to send a clear message that we will not tolerate the kinds of threats and terrorist activity that we have seen from Hezbollah and from the territory of Lebanon.”

The message appeared to reflect an intensification of Israeli pressure on the US and other members of the international community to restore calm on the border through diplomatic means.

Jerusalem is hoping that the US, France or other foreign mediators will be able to broker the enforcement of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

The resolution called for the disarmament of all non-state armed forces in Lebanon as well as for the region between the Israel-Lebanon border and the Litani River to be free of all armed forces other than the Lebanese army and the UN’s peacekeeping mission UNIFIL.

Over the years, however, Hezbollah has repeatedly violated the resolution, amassing weapons and forces near the border with little enforcement by UNIFIL.

People inspect a destroyed house following overnight Israeli bombardment in Lebanon’s southern village of Markaba near the border with Israel, on December 15, 2023, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas terrorists in Gaza. (Hassan Fneich/AFP)

Meanwhile, residents of southern Lebanon on Friday said that the IDF had dropped leaflets warning residents not to help Hezbollah, for the first time since the Israel-Hamas war began.

Israel also dropped leaflets over parts of south Lebanon during a 2006 war with Hezbollah, and has dropped fliers encouraging Palestinians not to help Hamas during the current war in Gaza.

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in four civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of six IDF soldiers.

On the Lebanese side, more than 120 have been killed, according to an AFP tally. The toll includes 107 Hezbollah members — some of whom were killed in Syria — 16 Palestinian terrorists, at least 14 civilians, and three journalists.

Israeli defense officials estimate that the Hezbollah death count is higher and that the terror group is covering up the true number of fatalities among its ranks.

More than 64,000 people have been displaced in Lebanon, mostly in the south, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration.

In Israel, an estimated 100,000 people have evacuated their homes on the northern border with Lebanon.