Seth Frantzman is reporting from Israel.
Pressure is mounting on Israel in a new way as the country prepares to do battle on a third front: diplomatically. Yes, Israel is concentrating on defeating Hamas in Gaza. And Hezbollah is also increasing attacks in northern Israel. But Israel also faces a potential challenge. Israel Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said on Monday that “from a diplomatic point of view, we recognize that pressure has begun to bear on Israel. The pressure is not very high [now], but it is increasing.”
Cohen indicated the pressure would increase in the next two or three weeks. Humanitarian aid for Gaza increased over the weekend as Saudi Arabia and the UAE sent aid to Egypt’s Al-Arish airport. France also mobilized support of humanitarian assistance.
Israel has continued to take casualties in the meantime. An Israeli electric worker was killed after an attack on Sunday. Several other civilians were also wounded, and IDF soldiers were wounded. Further attacks continued on Monday. Hezbollah launched rockets, anti-tank missiles, and mortars. The multi-front conflict puts Israel in a difficult position. The Israeli leadership and defense establishment want to concentrate on defeating Hamas, according to statements to Hebrew media on Monday. Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed groups seek to drag Israel into a larger conflict. These groups also targeted U.S. forces in the region with fifty attacks since Oct. 7.
Increased attacks in northern Israel also took place amid decreased rocket launches from Gaza. Israel entrenched in northern Gaza and surrounded Hamas in Gaza City over the last two weeks. Hamas has depleted its rocket supply and may be forced to fire rockets only from southern Gaza in the coming weeks. The full picture lacks clarity, but the number of incidents is clear. Hezbollah attacks increased, and Hamas rocket launches decreased.
On Monday, Hezbollah carried out two mortar launches near the community of Gornot HaGalil in northern Israel. The community is in a valley two miles from the border. The IDF retaliated with artillery. This is the usual IDF model, retaliating with proportionate force. Ten miles to the northeast, a terrorist also tried to infiltrate Israel near Biranit. Hezbollah also used an anti-tank missile to fire at Netua, which is near Biranit. In addition, mortars were fired at an Israeli Bedouin town on the border called Arab al-Aramshe. Later in the day, there were more attacks on Netua and Shtula, which is also nearby. All these communities sit on hills along the border, and they face Lebanon. In many cases, Hezbollah posts or flags can be seen from this line of hills. The communities were all evacuated in October.
Israeli media increased its coverage of the northern front on Sunday and Monday, in response to the death of the civilian and also the increased attacks. “In response to the launches over the past day, IDF fighter jets struck a number of Hezbollah military sites and terrorist infrastructure in Lebanon. These targets included terror infrastructure, weapons storage compounds, and an operational command center used by Hezbollah,” the IDF said. The increased threats from Lebanon came in the wake of a speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah over the weekend. It also came in the wake of increased attacks on US forces in Syria and Iraq. More US airstrikes were carried out on Sunday, targeting pro-Iranian militias in the Euphrates River valley near Mayadeen and Albukamal. Albukamal is on the Iraqi border and was a center of Iranian influence after 2018. Kataib Hezbollah had a headquarters in this Syrian town in the past, and Iran established a base called Imam Ali near the village.
In Gaza, the IDF released new numbers related to strikes on Hamas. The latest statement by the IDF on Nov. 13 said that “IAF aircraft and ground forces have conducted 4300 strikes, struck hundreds of anti-tank missile launch posts, approximately 300 tunnel shafts, approximately 3,000 terrorist infrastructure sites, including over 100 structures rigged with explosives, and hundreds of Hamas command and control centers.” It was not clear over what period these attacks had taken place. On Saturday the IDF said that “since the beginning of ground operations in Gaza, the Air Force, with the assistance and direction of the ground forces, has struck approximately 5,000 targets in the Gaza Strip to eliminate threats in real-time.” Israel aircraft had carried out 3,300 strikes in the two weeks of fighting on the ground. The mix of types of attacks and the time frame makes it difficult to measure if the number of strikes are increasing.
The IDF also said that it carried out raids on the Shati neighborhood in Gaza, west of Gaza City. This area had seen fighting over the last week. “The troops uncovered a section of the mosque which housed a large number of explosive devices and flammable materials. During the activity, the troops seized,” the IDF said. In addition, Israeli navy units also found weapons along the waterfront. The IDF did not say where these weapons were found, but the IDF did say this involved underwater missions.
South of Shati near the coast, in the area of operations of Israel’s 36th division, the tanks of the 188th brigade confronted RPG fire and small arms fire near the Quds hospital, the IDF said. “The shooting was carried out by a terrorist squad that had embedded itself within a group of civilians at the entrance of the hospital.” The statement by the IDF said 21 terrorists were eliminated in this area of operations by the tank unit. In addition, the IDF eliminated the head of a Hamas anti-tank missile unit in Khan Yunis. “Yaakub A’ashur was a battalion commander and was later promoted to the Head of the Anti-Tank Missile Array of Hamas’ Khan Yunis Brigade. He took part in the planning and execution of attacks against IDF soldiers,” the IDF said. This is the second leading anti-tank commander Israel eliminated, another Hamas anti-tank missile commander was struck on Nov. 9. Israel has targeted numerous battalion commanders of Hamas since the war began, taking out at least 12 of them according to previous reports. In addition, the IDF used its three-week air campaign in October to target many of the leaders of Hamas air defense, drone, and other specialized units.