Israel warns Hezbollah as attacks continue in north

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi HaLevi speaking on March 17. (IDF)

Israel has been at war with Hamas for 164 days as of March 18, and the Israel Defense Forces continue to operate on multiple fronts. Israel’s Chief of Staff Herzi HaLevi said on March 17 that Israel is fighting a “multi-arena” and “complex war” which he says has had many achievements. He also said that Israel has a “long way to go until the goals of the war are achieved.” He specifically mentioned northern Israel as one of the “arenas” where the fighting is ongoing.

As of March 18, Israel’s northern border is still evacuated of around 80,000 Israeli citizens. While some have returned and others have found residences elsewhere, many are still living in hotels temporarily and have an uncertain future. This is because Hezbollah continues to fire rockets and anti-tank missiles daily at the Israeli communities along the border. On Saturday, rockets were fired at Malkia and Misgav Am in northern Israel.

The attacks continued throughout Sunday and Monday, with rocket fire directed toward Mount Dov and the village of Ghajar. Ghajar is an Alewite village sitting at the bottom of Mount Dov which Israel controls but Hezbollah claims half the village is in Lebanon. Like Mount Dov, it has been a source of tension over the years. Israel re-opened the area to tourism in early 2023 but closed it when Hezbollah began attacks on Israel following the October 7 Hamas attack. Given the regularity of Hezbollah attacks that target it, there are no civilians who live in the Mount Dov area. However, the mountain is strategic as it sits at the border of Lebanon, Israel and Syria.

Israel continues its policy of a proportionate response to each attack by Hezbollah. After Saturday’s attacks, IDF artillery returned fire. The IDF said it struck a Hezbollah “observation post.” Overnight between Saturday and Sunday, the IDF said it intercepted a “suspicious aerial target” near Acre. Acre is a city on the coast of Israel approximately thirty minutes south of the Lebanese border, making it more of a long-distance target for Hezbollah. “In response to the launches fired toward the city of Acre, IDF fighter jets struck a Hezbollah military compound in the area of Khiam,” the IDF said.

Israel has been training troops near its northern border and rotating units along the frontline. For instance, most of the 36th armored division was moved north after completing several months of fighting in Gaza between October and January. Some of the units in the north contain reservists who were called up on October 7. On March 18, Hezbollah rocket fire targeted Mount Dov, Manara, and Yiftach near the Lebanese border. The IDF responded by sending aircraft to strike a Hezbollah military compound.

Israel’s Chief of Staff says that Israel continued to “damage Hezbollah’s operatives and its capabilities. Hezbollah began with aggression and is paying a heavy price for it that continues to grow.” He said in his statement on March 17 that “I am alert and attentive to the great difficulty of the residents of the north, who have been evacuated from their homes for a very long time. We will return the residents only with full security. To that end, we will go through any means necessary – the IDF and its commanders are ready and determined to make this happen, this is our duty.”

Residents of Israel’s north have heard this message for five months, yet daily attacks continue as Hezbollah appears to test various components of Israeli defense. It switches focus, for example, from threats like the one to Acre, to firing barrages at IDF bases, to positioning forces to threaten Israel from Syria or to direct threats at the Syria-Lebanon-Israel border area. As such, the Iranian-backed terrorist group is not static in its threats, and it is not only lobbing missiles over the border. It has a tactic and logic to how it employs its forces. It also does not appear deterred after five months.

Reporting from Israel, Seth J. Frantzman is an adjunct fellow at FDD and a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal. He is the acting news editor and senior Middle East correspondent and analyst at The Jerusalem Post. 


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