Israel intercepts Hezbollah drones as Israel’s defense minister continues meetings in Washington

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and his delegation meet with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Washington on June 25. (Ariel Hermoni/Israel Ministry of Defense photo)

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant continued his multi-day trip to Washington, DC, on June 25, meeting with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Gallant praised Austin and the US for their steadfast support since Hamas’s attack on October 7. The meetings happened as attacks by Hezbollah on Israel’s north continued, with no clear path to ending them.

“Today, we are at a crossroads that will impact the entire Middle East. I am here to discuss the ways to achieve our common goals—ensuring the security of the State of Israel and projecting the powerful ties between our countries,” Gallant said in his meeting with Austin.

“In the north, we are determined to establish security—changing reality on the ground and bringing our communities home safely. We are working closely together to achieve an agreement, but we must also discuss readiness, for every possible scenario,” Gallant added, according to a statement from his office.

“Hezbollah’s provocations threaten to drag the Israeli and Lebanese people into a war that they do not want. Such a war would be a catastrophe for Lebanon, and it would be devastating for innocent Israeli and Lebanese civilians,” Austin said during the meeting. He also expressed concerns that war between Israel and Hezbollah could lead to a larger regional war. The meeting between Austin and Gallant came in the wake of comments by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Charles Q. Brown, who also expressed concerns about Iran entering a future conflict.

The reasons for a growing focus among officials on the need for some shift in northern Israel regarding Hezbollah are clear. Hezbollah has launched more than 5,000 rocket, drone, and missile attacks since supporting Hamas’s attack on October 7. There is a broad sense that as the war in Gaza winds down to a less intense phase, then Israel could focus on the north. However, it’s not clear what that focus would mean.

I spent several days in northern Israel on June 23–24, consulting with local security teams who protect communities, visiting IDF units, and speaking with experts who focus on the security situation. Israeli communities in the north remain evacuated. The initial evacuation in October 2023 forced 80,000 people to flee, including the entire city of Kiryat Shmona. Several thousand residents have since returned to Kiryat Shmona, and thousands more have returned to smaller border communities. However, most of these areas are still ghost towns. The communities have also been damaged by Hezbollah rockets, as well as missile and drone attacks. Fires broke out on June 25 due to a drone attack, and the scars from recent fires due to the conflict are visible across parts of northern Israel.

The smaller communities in northern Israel have deployed security teams made up of men who do reserve army service to protect their own villages and towns. It’s part of a unique system that enables each community to recruit around two dozen local men to stand guard and train. These reservists are kitted out and armed with rifles as they would be if they were in an infantry unit, although they lack mortars and heavy weapons. These local guards are exposed to daily Hezbollah attacks in some areas if the community is within several miles of the border. For instance, Hezbollah attacked the northern Israeli community of Metulla on the night of June 23, wounding two soldiers.

The overall tempo of Hezbollah attacks has decreased over the last week, however. There were several incidents on June 25, starting at 2:12 in the afternoon and ending at 2:20. The previous day, there were two incidents from 6:17 to 6:53 in the afternoon. June 23 was more serious, with the attack on Metulla and an attempted drone attack in the lower Galilee, eighteen miles from the Lebanese border.

The IDF said that it intercepted a Hezbollah drone on June 24. Israeli fighter jets then carried out airstrikes against “terrorist infrastructure used by Hezbollah’s Aerial Defense Array in the area of Baalbek in Lebanon,” according to the IDF. On June 25, Israeli air defenses also intercepted two drones, and Israeli Air Force “fighter jets struck Hezbollah military structures, as well as terrorist infrastructure in the areas of Khiam and Odaisseh in southern Lebanon,” the IDF said.

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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