May 22, 2024 | FDD's Long War Journal

Israel confronts continued Hezbollah drone threats

May 22, 2024 | FDD's Long War Journal

Israel confronts continued Hezbollah drone threats

On the evening of May 22, a drone crashed near the community of Beit Hillel in northern Israel. It was one of a number of drone threats targeting the area in recent months and is part of a wider Hezbollah campaign using drones, missiles, and rockets against Israel. According to the IDF’s routine proportional response to these kinds of threats, the IDF used fighter jets to strike “terror infrastructure in the areas of Marwahin, Ayta ash Shab, and Rab El Thalathine in southern Lebanon,” the IDF said on May 22.

There have been an increasing number of drone attacks by Hezbollah in recent weeks. Hezbollah has launched thousands of projectiles at Israel since October 8 when it began its attacks on Israel. It is difficult to quantify how many drones have been used in these attacks. However, what is clear from Israeli apps that track sirens in northern Israel is that drones are playing what appears to be a larger role in the attacks.

For instance on May 21, there were two widespread alerts caused by suspected drone infiltrations as well as three separate incidents involving other projectiles. On May 20, there were also two suspected drone infiltration incidents and three separate incidents involved rocket or missile fire. On May 19, there were at least eight suspected drone incidents and four rounds of sirens caused by other projectiles. In some cases, sirens can also be false alarms and the IDF does not always report every incident in which it downs a drone or a drone crashes or strikes a target. On May 18, there were 12 rounds of sirens related to drone threats, beginning in the morning and ending in the evening.

The most serious recent drone incident by Hezbollah was the terrorist group’s use of a drone to attack a site 21 miles inside Israel. The drone struck a large Israeli surveillance blimp. On May 20, Israel also faced multi-front threats from drones. “IDF fighter jets successfully intercepted a suspicious aerial target that approached Israel from Syria. The target did not manage to cross into Israeli territory. Sirens concerning a hostile aircraft infiltration sounded in open areas in the Golan Heights according to protocol,” the IDF said. In addition, an Israeli naval ship and aircraft intercepted two drones that approached the city of Eilat. These were likely launched by pro-Iranian militias in Iraq who have increased their attacks on Israel using drones over the last several months.

The overall picture is that drones, or what are sometimes called one-way attack drones or kamikaze drones, are becoming a weapon of choice for Iranian-backed groups in the region. This includes Hezbollah, militias in Syria and Iraq, as well as the Houthis in Yemen. Iran has been exporting drone technology for years to these groups. The multi-front war on Israel which the Iranian-proxies launched in October in the wake of the Hamas attack has provided Iran with the ability to increase the use of these types of systems. Iran has also exported the Shahed 136 delta-wing kamikaze drone to Russia for use against Ukraine since at least 2022. A similar type of drone appeared in Yemen in late 2020.

Amid the increased threats from Hezbollah, Israel’s Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi HaLevi went to northern Israel on May 22 to visit the IDF’s 551st reserve brigade as it conducted an exercise. The drill was intended to continue preparations for possible escalation in the north. The 551st previously served in Gaza.

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. 

Issues:

Hezbollah Iran Iran Global Threat Network Israel Israel at War Military and Political Power