Israeli forces will ‘very soon go into action’ near the country’s border with Lebanon, the country’s defence minister has told troops, as fears mount that clashes with Hezbollah could spiral into a full-scale regional war.
Defence Minister Yoav Gallant told troops near the border with the besieged Gaza Strip that others were being deployed to Israel’s north ‘so the forces [there] are reinforced’.
He added that reservists would be gradually released ‘to prepare and come ready’ for future operations.
Since the outbreak of war between Hamas and Israel on October 7, the Lebanese-Israeli border has seen near-daily exchanges of fire between Israel’s Defence Forces and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, a Hamas ally.
It comes following reports that Israel is determined to prevent a repeat of the bloody invasion in the north of its territory, and that ‘Israeli doctrine is to take the war to the other side.’
Defence Minister Yoav Gallant told troops near the border with the besieged Gaza Strip that others were being deployed to Israel’s north
Israeli soldiers patrol an area near the northern kibbutz of Kfar Blum close to the border with Lebanon on January 25
Hezbollah today claimed responsibility for at least 12 attacks on Israeli army positions near the border, using Iranian-made Falaq-1 and Burkan missiles.
Later in the day, the Israeli army said it carried out air strikes on Hezbollah targets in Lebanon.
‘The targets included Hezbollah’s infrastructure and an observation post located in the southern Lebanese areas of Markaba, Taybeh, and Maroun al-Ras,’ the army said in a statement.
The army also confirmed several projectiles had been launched from Lebanon and said forces ‘responded by targeting the launch sites and other locations in Lebanon’.
Israel’s army chief Herzi Halevi said earlier this month that the likelihood of war on the northern border has become ‘much higher’.
‘I don’t know when the war in the north is, I can tell you that the likelihood of it happening in the coming months is much higher than it was in the past,’ Halevi said.
More than 200 people, most of them Hezbollah members, have been killed in south Lebanon by Israeli fire since October 7, according to an AFP tally.
On the Israeli side of the border, nine soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to Israeli officials.
Smoke billows following Israeli shelling on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila near the border with Israel on January 29, 2024
A view shows snow-covered trees and houses in Faraya as seen from Kfardebian, mount Lebanon
Funded by Iran, Hezbollah has been building its military strength over years, stockpiling a huge arsenal of some 100,000 rockets.
The border tensions have ramped up over the last few months, reviving memories of Hezbollah’s 2006 war with Israel that killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 160 in Israel, largely soldiers.
The conflict ended thanks to a UN ceasefire resolution which agreed that all armed forces, except for UN peacekeepers and the official Lebanese army, would be moved north of the Litani River.
Search and rescue efforts continue at the area in Az Zawayda town of Deir Al Balah, Gaza after an Israeli airstrike on January 29, 2024
The Israel-Hamas war has killed more than 26,000 people in Gaza, according to local health officials, and has destroyed vast swathes of the enclave
But instead, over the years that followed, Hezbollah remained in the south and built up its fortifications near the borders, claiming that it was protecting against the Israeli threat. Israel may now be keen to push them back, according to reports.
In Gaza, Gallant today said that Hamas is running out of supplies and ammunition, but the war against Hamas ‘will take months’.
The prospect of a prolonged war comes as Palestinians are facing a worsening humanitarian crisis, with funding to UNWRA, which provides assistance to around half of the Strip’s population of 2.3 million, being halted.
More than 26,000 people have been killed during Israel’s onslaught in Gaza, according to local health officials.
The conflict, which is well over 100 days old, has destroyed vast swathes of the enclave and displaced nearly 85 per cent of the population.
The Hamas attack in southern Israel killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and saw about 250 people taken hostage.