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Hezbollah launches rockets, drones at northern Israel military sites

 

Hezbollah has said it launched a major drone and rocket attack targeting several Israeli military bases amid growing fears of an all-out war between the Lebanese armed group and Israel.

It was the largest attack by the Iran-aligned group since the outbreak of violence between the two sides on October 8, a Hezbollah source told Al Jazeera Arabic on Thursday.

The group said the attack in northern Israel was in retaliation for the assassination of senior commander Taleb Abdullah – known as Abu Taleb – in an Israeli air raid in the southern Lebanese village of Jouaiya earlier this week.

The source said the “compound attack” also aimed to establish deterrence after the killing of Abdullah.

The Lebanese group used 150 rockets and 30 explosive drones to target 15 Israeli positions, including some in the occupied Golan Heights, the source said.

Israeli media outlets reported that Hezbollah rockets wounded at least two people and started 15 fires.

The Israeli military said in a post on X that “numerous” launches were intercepted and that some ignited fires.

In an official statement, Hezbollah said the operation was “in support of the steadfast Palestinian people and their courageous and honourable resistance in Gaza and in the context of the response to the assassination that the Zionist enemy carries out in Jouaiyya”.

One of the Israeli units targeted in the attack is responsible for planning assassinations, Hezbollah said.

On Wednesday, Hezbollah had also fired a barrage of 200 rockets at Israel.

There have been near-constant reports of rocket sirens being activated in northern Israel since Abdullah was killed along with three other fighters late on Tuesday.

Hezbollah does not reveal details about its military structure or ranks, but Abdullah was only the second slain fighter from the group to be eulogised as a “commander” in the past months – after Wissam al-Tawil, who was killed in an Israeli attack in January.

Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad paid tribute to Abdullah on Wednesday, lauding his efforts to confront Israel.

Hezbollah started attacking military bases in northern Israel after the outbreak of the war on Gaza in what it says is a “support front” to back Palestinian armed groups.

Israel has responded by bombing villages across south Lebanon and targeting Hezbollah’s positions. Despite the near-daily exchange of fire, the confrontations have largely been limited to the border area.

Tens of thousands of people in south Lebanon and northern Israel have fled their homes to escape the violence.

Late last month, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah portrayed the Lebanese front with Israel as historically decisive.

“This battle concerns Palestine, but also concerns the future of Lebanon and its water and oil resources,” Nasrallah said. “This front is a support front that is part of the battle that will determine the fate of Palestine, Lebanon and the region strategically.”

Aided by Iran, the Lebanese organization has grown in strength in recent years. Hezbollah fought a years-long war against Israel, culminating in the withdrawal of Israeli troops from parts of south Lebanon they occupied for nearly two decades.

In 2006, Israel launched a major offensive to disarm Hezbollah after the group carried out a deadly cross-border attack against Israeli forces. The conflict ended without major changes to the status quo. But Hezbollah has grown both its rocket arsenal and regional influence since then.

Earlier this month, Hezbollah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem told Al Jazeera that the group is “ready” for war if Israel intensifies its attacks.

“Any Israeli expansion of the war on Lebanon will be met with devastation, destruction and displacement in Israel,” he said. “If Israel wants to fight an all-out war, we are ready for it.”

Israeli officials have pledged to push Hezbollah fighters further away from the country’s borders, including by force if necessary.

“Israel will respond with force to all aggressions by Hezbollah,” Israeli government spokesman David Mencer said on Thursday. “Whether through diplomatic efforts or otherwise, Israel will restore security on our northern border.”

A war with Hezbollah, which has demonstrated sophisticated military capabilities, including the use of guided rockets and precision drones, could prove more costly to Israel than the continuing conflict in Gaza.

Reporting from Beirut, Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr said Hezbollah has been stepping up its attacks not only to respond to the killing of its commander but also to strengthen Hamas’s negotiating position amid ceasefire talks and warn Israel against launching a major offensive in Lebanon.

“So this is also about deterrence on the part of Hezbollah,” Khodr said.

“No doubt, this is a dangerous escalation of this ongoing conflict,” referring to the Israeli promise to respond to the latest attacks.

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