Israel launches deepest airstrikes yet on Hezbollah targets in Lebanon

Israeli fighter jets launched the deepest airstrikes yet on Lebanon, reigniting fears of regional war.

The series of deadly strikes, amid months of cross-border violence, came after rockets from Hezbollah killed a woman in a town in northern Israel not previously affected by daily border clashes.

One woman was killed and eight more people were injured as 20 rockets targeted the city of Safed and other areas in the north, according to first responders.

Safed, which is 13 kilometres from the Lebanese border and hosts an important IDF base, has largely been unaffected by exchange of fire between Israel and Hezbollah since Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel. The city has not received evacuation orders unlike swathes of northern Israel.

Retired Israeli general Benny Gantz (C), is pictured during an electoral campaign tour, in the city of Rishon Letzion, south of the coastal city of Tel Aviv
Benny Gantz (pictured), on Wednesday said the Lebanese government is ’also responsible’ for the attack and promised to respond ’with force.’ - AFP

The escalation by the Iranian-backed group came just a few days after Iran’s foreign minister visited Lebanon for talks, and a day after Hezbollah’s leader vowed to continue rocket attacks until the war in Gaza stops.

Iran previously praised Hezbollah’s “resistance” against Israel but insisted it has no control over the actions of its allies.

The IDF on Wednesday afternoon responded by targeting a dozen villages deep in southern Lebanon, including 25 kilometres away from the border, departing from a previous tactic of only hitting Hezbollah assets close to the border.

At least four people including a woman and her two children were killed and 11 wounded in Israeli airstrikes on two towns in the south, Lebanon’s civil defence said.

Lebanese government ‘also responsible’

Benny Gantz, an opposition leader-turned-member of the coalition government, on Wednesday said the Lebanese government is “also responsible” for the attack and promised to respond “with force.”

Wednesday’s attack emboldened local officials and right-wing politicians to renew their calls for the Israeli government to mount an offensive against Hezbollah to stop the attacks.

Moshe Davidovich, head of a regional council in northern Israel, told the Walla news website Israel should “wake up to the threat”.

A member of Israeli security forces works at the site of a rocket attack from Lebanon in Safed, Israe
A member of Israeli security forces works at the site of a rocket attack from Lebanon in Safed - Xinhua / Alamy Live News

Itamar Ben Gvir, Israel’s hard-right National Security Minister, on Wednesday described the attack as a declaration of war and urged the government to respond in kind.

“This is not a trickle (of rockets), it’s a war,” he said on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Channel 12 reported that Mr Ben Gvir has requested an urgent meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, to discuss the flare-up in the north.

Shuki Ohana, the mayor of Safed, lamented on Wednesday that the city has not been included in the evacuation orders even though he raised the issue again with the government in recent weeks.

“We are in a dangerous area in which strategic assets are located,” he told Kan Radio in an apparent reference to the Israeli military base in the area.

Schools not fortified

He said that many of the local schools are not fortified and that a local kindergarten teacher had to take kids outside this morning and tell them to lie on the pavement.

“When a kindergarten teacher cannot protect her children, that is not normal,” he said.

Hezbollah head Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address on Tuesday that his group would only stop its exchanges of fire if a full ceasefire was reached for Gaza.

“On that day, when the shooting stops in Gaza, we will stop the shooting in the south,” he said.

The cross-border shelling has already killed more than 200 people in Lebanon, including more than 170 Hezbollah fighters, as well as around a dozen Israeli troops and some Israeli civilians.

It has also displaced tens of thousands of people in the border areas of each country.