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6 Jan, 2024 15:50

Hezbollah targets critical Israeli base

The Lebanon-based militants claimed that the attack caused “direct hits and injuries” at a surveillance facility
Hezbollah targets critical Israeli base

Hezbollah announced on Saturday that it had fired 62 missiles at an Israeli air surveillance base near the Lebanese border. The barrage was an “initial response” to the assassination of Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut earlier this week, the Lebanese militants declared.

Incoming rocket alerts sounded across northern Israel on Saturday as dozens of missiles struck the base atop Mount Meron, the highest summit in Israeli territory outside the Golan Heights. The base is home to a radar station and surveillance apparatus used to direct Israeli warplanes over Lebanon and parts of Syria, and to intercept communications from both countries.

“As part of the initial response to the crime of assassinating the great leader Sheikh Saleh al-Arouri…the Islamic resistance targeted the Meron air control base with 62 missiles of various types,” Hezbollah said in a statement.

The Lebanese paramilitary group described the Meron base as “the sole center for administration, monitoring, and air control in the north of the usurping entity [Israel],” without which Israel has “no viable alternative.”

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed that 40 missiles were fired at the base. It didn’t state whether the barrage caused any casualties, while Hezbollah said that it had caused “confirmed direct hits and injuries.” The IDF stated that it launched airstrikes on launch sites in southern Lebanon in response.

Video footage shared on social media purportedly showed a number of missiles impacting the base, as well as dense black smoke rising from several points on the mountaintop after the barrage.

Shortly after the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war last October, Hezbollah declared itself “at war” with the Jewish state. Engaging in tit-for-tat exchanges with the IDF, the Lebanese militants have until recently waged a limited campaign aimed at tying up Israeli forces near the border, thereby preventing their deployment to Gaza. 

However, the group’s position has hardened following the assassination in Beirut on Tuesday. Al-Arouri, who at the time of his death was the deputy chairman of Hamas’ political bureau, was killed in an apparent Israeli drone strike in the Lebanese capital. 

Hezbollah described the killing as a “serious assault on Lebanon,” that it would not let “pass without response and punishment.” In a speech the day after the strike, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that a “response is coming,” adding that the “decision has already been made.”

“If the enemy thinks about waging war against Lebanon, then our fighting will be with no ceiling, with no limits, with no rules. And they know what I mean,” Nasrallah said. “We are not afraid of war. We don’t fear it. We are not hesitant.”

Speaking during a visit to Lebanon on Saturday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned that “nobody will win” if Israel and Lebanon get dragged into an open conflict.