Hezbollah Rocket Artillery Strikes Critical Israeli Surveillance Base: A Response to a Key Hamas Official’s Assassination

The Lebanese political party and paramilitary group Hezbollah on December 6 launched a successful strike on a major Israeli air surveillance facility near the Lebanese border using rocket artillery, with 62 rockets reported to have been fired. Located atop Mount Meron, the highest summit held by Israeli forces other than in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, the facility hosts a radar station and surveillance apparatus which are used both to intercept communications across Lebanon and Syria and to direct Israeli military aircraft for operations against both countries. Hezbollah claimed that the attack was launched in response to Israel’s assassination of Hamas deputy leader Saleh Al Arouri in the Lebanese capital Beirut on January 2, a founding commander of the Palestinian party’s military wing the Izz Al Din Al Qassam Brigades. It also follows the assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Brigadier General Seyed Razi Mousavi in an Israeli precision strike on Syria on December 25, for which Iran has vowed to retaliate. Despite significant ideological differences, Hezbollah and Hamas have been close strategic partners and cooperated closely against what they perceive as a common adversary in Israel. Hezbollah does not maintain any meaningful military presence in Beirut, with its forces largely concentrated across southern Lebanon, which meant Al Arouri could was nevertheless not considered to be under its protection. 

An official statement from Hezbollah regarding the strike highlighted: “As part of the initial response to the crime of assassinating the great leader Sheikh Saleh Al Arouri…the Islamic resistance targeted the Meron air control base with 62 missiles of various types.” It described the Meron base as “the sole centre for administration, monitoring, and air control in the north of the usurping entity [Israel],” without which the country had “no viable alternative.” The Israel Defence Forces “confirmed direct hits and injuries” at the facility, but gave no indications of the extent of the damage or the casualties caused. Both Israel and Hezbollah have widely been accused of underreporting their casualties in the past. The strike on a key Israeli military facility notably mirrors an Iranian response four years prior to the U.S. assassination on January 2, 2020 of the head of the Revolutionary Guard Corps General Qasem Soleimani, to which it responded with missile strikes on American facilities in Iraq causing over 100 casualties.

Hezbollah is considered the only military force to have defeated Israel in a war in the country’s history, and proved highly effective both in a month-long conflict with Israel in 2006 and in the subsequent decade combating insurgent groups in Syria which were supported by IsraelTurkey and multiple Western countries.  The militia group has engaged in skirmishes with Israeli forces on the border since early October, including in late December launching strikes to suppress Israeli air defences, although it previously refrained from escalatory steps such as striking major bases and instead targeted personnel concentrations near the border.