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(Zero Hedge)—Hezbollah on Saturday initiated what it announced as “an initial response” to Israel’s assassination by drone of Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri, which happened in a south Beirut neighborhood last week.
The Lebanese paramilitary group backed by Iran unleashed large salvos of missiles that bombarded military bases as well as communities in northern Israel (many of which have long been evacuated), triggering alert sirens among some 90 towns and settlements.
The Hezbollah statement declared that the assault was “part of the initial response to the crime of assassinating the great leader Sheikh Saleh al-Arouri.”
The Israel Defense Forces in a follow-up statement said some 40 rockets were fired from Lebanon at the Mount Meron area in particular, which contains a crucial IDF base which reportedly has overseen Israeli operations against Syria.
Hezbollah indicated it launched 62 “various types of missiles” against the Meron air control base as part of Saturday’s retaliatory attacks, however, Israel said there were no casualties in the aftermath.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah-linked Almayadeen news service has said that the targeting of Meron Base is a first of the conflict, and is of huge significance:
Located just 8 kilometers from Lebanon’s southern border, “Meron” Base overlooks the Lebanese towns of Rmeish, Yaroun, and Maroun al-Ras in the central sector. It occupies the summit of Mount Jarmaq in northern occupied Palestine, making it the highest peak within the occupied territories.
Sitting at an altitude of approximately 1200 meters above sea level, the base sprawls across an area of up to 150,000 square meters, with a substantial portion of the surrounding areas believed to be under its control for military and intelligence purposes.
According to the Resistance statement released today, “Meron” primarily serves as an aerial surveillance center.
It is the sole facility responsible for managing and controlling air operations toward Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and Cyprus, as well as the northern part of the eastern Mediterranean Sea basin. Moreover, this base acts as a central hub for electronic warfare interference in the mentioned directions, staffed by a significant number of elite Israeli officers and soldiers.
Hezbollah has already since Oct.7 been targeting and degrading Israel’s vast military communications infrastructure along the Lebanese border, often publishing videos of these attacks.
Hezbollah strikes Israel's most important military site
With 62 missiles, Hezbollah pounded the Mount Meron base, which coordinates Israel's air operations and bombing raids on Syria and Lebanon.
This strike was the initial response to the assassination of Saleh… pic.twitter.com/kKfEB3s2UK
— Iran Observer (@IranObserver0) January 6, 2024
It is as yet unknown the degree of damage that Meron base may have suffered, and Israel is likely to keep this under wraps even if the damage is extensive.
Saturday’s escalation was met with swift reaction from the European Union, which urged restraint:
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Saturday that it was “imperative” to avoid a regional escalation in the Middle East.
“It is absolutely necessary to avoid Lebanon being dragged into a regional conflict,” he said, also warning Israel that “nobody will win from a regional conflict”.
“We are seeing a worrying intensification of exchange of fire across the Blue Line,” he added, referring to the current demarcation line between the two countries, a frontier mapped by the United Nations that marks the line to which Israeli forces withdrew when they left south Lebanon in 2000.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah had vowed to retaliate for the killing of Hamas political deputy head Saleh Arouri in a Friday speech, while also saying he won’t negotiate ceasefire with Israel until it ceases attacking Gaza.
IDF published clips of its airstrikes on southern Lebanon Saturday:
חוליית מחבלים, עמדת שיגור, מבנים צבאיים ותשתיות טרור; צה"ל השלים שורת תקיפות בשטח לבנון>> pic.twitter.com/MH0HY5JRR6
— צבא ההגנה לישראל (@idfonline) January 6, 2024
Later in the day Saturday, the IDF said it launched multiple airstrikes on Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon in response, and released footage showing attacks on buildings and rural sites said to include a “terrorist squad, launch site, military buildings and terrorist infrastructure.”
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