June 12, 2024 | FDD's Long War Journal

Israel faces major Hezbollah escalation as Rafah battle continues

June 12, 2024 | FDD's Long War Journal

Israel faces major Hezbollah escalation as Rafah battle continues

Hezbollah launched “at least 215 rockets from Lebanon” at Israel on June 12 in the most significant escalation by the Iranian-backed terrorist group over eight months of war. Hezbollah has been targeting Israel with rockets, drones, and missiles since October 8, 2023, when it chose to back Hamas’s war. Hezbollah attacks usually average about a dozen or more projectiles daily, in contrast to the more than 215 launched on June 12.

Hezbollah began the barrage in the morning in the wake of an Israeli airstrike that killed Hezbollah commander Taleb Sami Abdullah on the evening of June 11. Abdullah, a commander of an important sector for Hezbollah south of the Litani River along the Israeli border, was the most senior of the group’s leaders killed in eight months of clashes. The IDF stated he “Planned, advanced, and carried out a large number of terror attacks against Israeli civilians over many years” and noted that the strike also killed three other Hezbollah operatives.

Although the killing of Abdullah was the immediate reason for Hezbollah launching a high volume of rockets on June 12, the group has been escalating attacks over the last month. In May, it increased its use of kamikaze drones and anti-tank missiles. In the first week and a half of June, the group also increased the range of its attacks inside Israel, targeting coastal cities such as Acre, Nahariya, and Haifa, which is 19 miles south of the Lebanese border. On June 12, Hezbollah expanded this attack distance even further, targeting the Israeli city of Tiberias and communities along the Sea of Galilee, around 25 miles south of the Lebanese border.

Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel continued throughout June 12, and the group claimed responsibility for them to the pro-Iranian media outlet Al-Mayadeen. Iranian media also claimed Hezbollah had targeted Israeli “spy facilities.” The terrorist group frequently claims it is able to carry out precision attacks targeting IDF posts and bases.

On the evening of June 12, the IDF said that it used ground-based air defenses and aircraft to intercept drones targeting Mount Hermon in the Golan. The IDF also stated that it retaliated against the Hezbollah attacks with “a series of strikes on Hezbollah terror targets in southern Lebanon, including military structures in Yater and Markaba and terrorist infrastructure in the area of Tallouseh.”

The Hezbollah escalation came amid relative quiet in Gaza as the IDF continues operations against Hamas and other terrorist groups. The IDF’s 98th Division, which entered central Gaza on June 5 and targeted Hamas in Bureij and Deir al-Balah, recently completed operations in the area. On June 11, the IDF reported that the division killed around 100 terrorists during this period and “destroyed dozens of terrorist infrastructure sites and launch areas situated near communities in southern Israel.”

The operations in central Gaza also included the IDF’s Kfir Infantry Brigade, the 7th Armored Brigade, and members of the Yahalom combat engineers. “Yahalom soldiers scanned and destroyed […] two tunnels, which were each one kilometer in length and contained rooms and weapons, and destroyed over two kilometers of the attack tunnels,” the IDF added in a statement.

The battles in Bureij and Deir al-Balah formed part of a larger, more important raid in the area of Nuseirat in which four Israeli hostages were rescued on June 8.

“We’re also committed to destroying the enemy on the other side and dismantling its underground infrastructure and infrastructure above the ground,” Brig. Gen. Dan Goldfus, the commander of the 98th Division, said to his troops after the successful rescue. “That’s what we’ve been doing for the past eight months, and we’ll keep on doing it, pushing forward.”

Fighting continues in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where the IDF has been operating since early May. These forces also continue to dismantle rocket launch sites and tunnels used by terrorists.

“Troops eliminated a number of armed terrorist cells in close-quarters encounters in the area. IDF troops also located and destroyed structures rigged with explosives, as well as weapons, ammunition, military vests, and additional military equipment found in the area,” the IDF said on June 11.

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