Skip to main content

Israel strikes deeper, hits Lebanon's Baalbek in first since 2006 war

The strikes were the deepest inside Lebanese territory since border clashes between Israel and Hezbollah began nearly five months ago.
AFP via Getty Images

BEIRUT — Israeli fighter jets struck several Hezbollah positions near Lebanon’s northeastern city of Baalbek on Monday, in the deepest strikes inside Lebanese territory since the cross-border hostilities began in October and the first time Israel has hit Baalbek since the 2006 war. 

Monday’s strikes mark a serious escalation in the fighting. They are the first to hit in the Bekaa region, a major Hezbollah stronghold, since the two parties fought a deadly war in July 2006.

There were at least three airstrikes between the towns of Tal Safiya and Aadous, according to local reports.

Lebanese security officials told the Associated Press that a strike hit a truck convoy in the village of Buday, a Hezbollah stronghold.

Shortly after the strike on Monday, Hezbollah announced in separate statements the death of two of its fighters.

The pair were identified as Hassan Ali Younes from the town of Brital in the Baalbek district and Ahmad Mohamed Sindiyan from the village of Aali el-Nahri in the Zahle district.

The statements did not specify where they were killed, instead saying they were both "martyred on the road to Jerusalem,” a phrase phrase commonly used by the movement referring to its members killed in Israeli strikes.

A Hezbollah official quoted by AP said another strike targeted a warehouse belonging to a Hezbollah cooperative that sells goods and food to registered Hezbollah supporters at low prices. 

The Israeli military later confirmed the attack, saying its jets struck aerial defense systems used by Hezbollah in the Bekaa Valley. In a statement on X, Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Daniel Hagari said the strikes came in response to Hezbollah firing a surface-to-air missile at an Israeli drone in southern Lebanon.

The heavily armed group said in a statement earlier on Monday that its air defense units shot down an Israeli Hermes 450 drone in the Iqlim al-Tuffah region.

Hezbollah official and member of parliament Hassan Fadlallah said the Baalbek strikes will not go “unanswered.”

Speaking at a funeral procession for a Hezbollah fighter on Monday killed in a separate recent incident, Fadlallah condemned the Israeli “aggression” and vowed that Hezbollah “will respond in the appropriate manner.”

“This Zionist encroachment will not push us to retreat; it will rather increase our determination,” he added.

For its part, Israel has vowed to increase its attacks against Hezbollah even if a cease-fire is reached in the Gaza Strip.

“In the event of a temporary truce in Gaza, we will increase the fire in the north, and will continue until the full withdrawal of Hezbollah” from the border, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said during a Sunday visit to the Northern Command headquarters in Safed.

“The goal is simple: to push Hezbollah back to where it should be. Either by an agreement or by force,” he added.

Israel has in recent weeks struck deeper inside Lebanese territory, raising fears of a broader conflict in the small Mediterranean country.

Last week, the Israeli army said it struck weapons depots belonging to Hezbollah near the southern city of Sidon, which lies nearly 30 kilometers (around 18 miles) from the border with Israel.

In January, an apparent Israeli strike in the heart of the Hezbollah-controlled Dahiyeh district of Beirut killed senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri.

Hezbollah began firing rockets and drones at northern Israel one day after Hamas launched its surprise cross-border assault on southern Israel Oct. 7. The Iranian-backed group has said it was acting in solidarity with the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.

The cross-border hostilities have since killed at least 280 people in Lebanon, of whom at least 210 were Hezbollah members and 44 were civilians, according to a tally by Agence France-Presse, while dozens of others belonged to other militant groups. The death toll in Israel has reached 10 soldiers and six civilians, according to the Israeli army.