Israeli minister Gantz says Lebanese front close to 'moment of truth'

Remarks from member of war cabinet come after intensification of attacks by Hezbollah

Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli air strike on the village of Majdel Zoun, near Lebanon’s southern border. AFP
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Senior Israeli minister Benny Gantz has said the “moment of truth” is approaching regarding how to respond militarily to Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group that opened a "pressure front" along the Israel-Lebanon border in support of its ally Hamas a day after Israel's war on Gaza started.

“This is the operative front with the greatest and most urgent challenge, and this is how we must treat it,” Mr Gantz, a member of Israel's war cabinet, said in a speech on Sunday afternoon, as reported by The Jerusalem Post.

“I appeal from here to the evacuees, who will also celebrate Seder night outside their homes, and I promise – we see you. We recognise the enormous difficulty and your great courage. We will work to bring you home safely, even before the start of the school year,” he added, referring to the tens of thousands of Israelis who have been displaced by the violence from the northern border.

The remarks come as Hezbollah has escalated its attacks against Israeli military positions in recent days, with tensions across the region surging after Iran's unprecedented assault on Israeli soil.

Last week, a Hezbollah attack on a Bedouin border village in northern Israel wounded at least 14 Israeli soldiers, the highest number of casualties in a single attack since the frontier conflict began on October 8.

On Sunday the Israeli army announced that one of the wounded, Major Dor Zimel, 27, who served as the deputy commander of a company in the Nahal Brigade, had died.

Since October 8 Hezbollah and Israel have exchanged daily fire. The strikes have been largely confined to the border area between the two countries – although Israel has on occasion launched strikes deeper inside Lebanon.

The violence has killed at least 375 people in Lebanon, most of them fighters but 70 of them civilians, according to an AFP tally. In northern Israel, 11 soldiers and eight civilians have been killed, according to the army.

Updated: April 21, 2024, 5:42 PM