Israel Latest: Army Warns of Wider War as Lebanon Tensions Spike

Israel’s military warned that Iran-backed Hezbollah risks dragging neighboring Lebanon into war and said anti-tank missiles were fired from Lebanon Sunday.

(Bloomberg) — Israel’s military warned that Iran-backed Hezbollah risks dragging neighboring Lebanon into war and said anti-tank missiles were fired from Lebanon Sunday. 

Israel stepped up airstrikes on Gaza and struck Aleppo and Damascus airports, Syrian state-run media reported, after increased drone attacks on US bases in Iraq and Syria last week. Overnight an airbase in Iraq that hosts US and international forces was targeted by rockets in an ongoing escalation of hostilities drawing in regional militia. 

Israel’s military said it would embark on the next phase of the Gaza campaign, without giving a timeframe for its widely expected ground invasion against Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and EU. 

(All time stamps are Israeli time)

Israel Army Says Intercepts Unmanned Aircraft From Lebanon (11:56 a.m.)

The Israeli military said that anti-tank missiles were fired from Lebanon and that it intercepted a drone from its northern neighbor. Israel Defense Forces responded with fire to an attempted missile launch. Israel said its aircraft struck earlier in the day a cell planning to launch anti-tank missiles from Lebanon.

Army Says Next Steps in Gaza Await Government Guidance (11:30 a.m.)

Israel’s defense force awaits guidance from the government before embarking on the next phase of the military campaign in Gaza, IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a briefing. 

In the meantime, the army has stepped up its aerial strikes over the Gaza Strip in what it describes as “part of the preparations for the next phase,” which is widely expected to include a ground invasion. 

“Overnight, dozens of terrorists were killed, including the deputy commander of the Hamas rocket fire array,” Hagari said in a televised statement.  

Cathay Pacific Suspends Flights to Tel Aviv for Rest of 2023 (11:16 a.m.)

Hong Kong-based carrier Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. said it has canceled all flights between the Asian financial hub and Tel Aviv for the rest of this year, citing “the ongoing situation in Israel.” 

The company first stopped flights there earlier this month, along with many other airlines, after Hamas launched its attack on Israel on Oct. 7. Cathay Pacific until then offered three flights a week to Hong Kong, according to the flight data company Cirium. 

Rockets Target Iraq’s Ain Al-Asad Air Base, Reuters Says (10:24 a.m.) 

Katyusha rockets targeted the base, which hosts US and international forces, and one blast was heard inside the base, Reuters reported, citing army officials it didn’t identify. 

On Saturday, defense systems at the base in the western Anbar province intercepted and shot down two drones. 

India Sends Humanitarian Aid for Gaza (8:07 a.m.)

An Indian Air Force flight carrying nearly 6.5 tons of medical aid and 32 tons of disaster relief material departed for Egypt, according to a spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Arindam Bagchi.

The supplies include life-saving medicines, surgical items, tents, sleeping bags, sanitary utilities, water purification tablets and other items, Bagchi said in a post on X.

Syria Says Israel Attacks Airports (7:57 a.m.)

Israel conducted simultaneous airstrikes at 5:25 am local time, targeting Damascus and Aleppo airports and putting them out of service, Syria’s state-run Sana news agency reported. Both facilities had been hit earlier in the Israel-Hamas war.

Al Jazeera reported Syria was diverting flights to the airport at its Mediterranean city of Latakia.

Israel to Evacuate More Communities in the North (7:45 a.m.)

Israel will evacuate 14 additional communities that are close to its northern border following exchanges of fire with Hezbollah in Lebanon, according to the Ministry of Defense.

Israel already evacuated 50,000 residents from about 30 communities along the border last week, including Kiryat Shmona, the area’s largest city and service hub.

In southern Israel, 70,000 residents have already been evacuated from communities following the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas.

Israel Says Strike Targets Hamas in West Bank (7:35 a.m.)

An Israeli airstrike hit a mosque in Jenin that the military said “was used as an underground terror compound and contained a cell of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror operatives, who were organizing an imminent terror attack.” 

The Palestinian Health Ministry said two Palestinians were killed in the attack, while two others were killed in clashes with the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank cities of Tubas and Nablus. 

Israel Says Hezbollah Playing ‘Dangerous Game’ (7:29 a.m.)

Israel’s military accused Hezbollah of playing a “very, very dangerous game” that risked “dragging Lebanon into a war that it will gain nothing from, but stands to lose a lot,” as the Lebanese group continued to fire rockets at Israeli army posts near the border.

In a briefing on X, IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus said Lebanese needed to ask themselves whether the price of supporting Hamas in Gaza was worth paying. Hezbollah, a militant group and political party, runs a vast network of schools, hospitals and social services in Lebanon.

US Strengthens Mideast Defense Posture (5:20 a.m.)

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he had taken steps to strengthen the department’s posture in the Middle East after talks with President Joe Biden.

The government will add more Patriot battalions to locations in the region and activate a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery to increase protection for US forces. Additional staff have been placed on “prepare to deploy orders” to increase readiness, Austin said in a statement.

The US “will continue to assess our force posture requirements in the region and consider deploying additional capabilities as necessary,” Austin said.

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