(JTA) — A man and his elderly mother were killed on Sunday when an anti-tank missile fired by Hezbollah struck their home, as tensions on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon continue to rise.
Hours earlier, Israeli forces killed three Lebanese militants who attempted to infiltrate Israel. Five Israeli soldiers were lightly injured during the fighting with the militants, who were affiliated with a terror group separate from Hezbollah, and the military temporarily closed roads and village entrances in the area in response.
The clashes have come as fears have grown of war between Israel and Hezbollah. The terror group began firing rockets at Israel following Hamas’ Oct. 7 invasion across the country’s southern border, and exchanges of fire have continued, creating the potential for a broader war in Israel’s north even as it has focused its firepower on its invasion of Gaza.
Several more anti-tank missiles struck various border communities in northern Israel on Sunday, but resulted in no injuries. Israel bombed two Hezbollah targets in response.
The deaths of Mira Ayalon, 76, and her son Barak, 45, in Sunday’s Hezbollah strike bring the total number of Israelis killed in the northern cross-border clashes to 15, nine of them soldiers, since October 7. Barak Ayalon was a member of his town’s civilian defense patrol. Mira Ayalon, in an interview with Israeli Channel 12, said she was “living in tension” and noted that her house was visible from Lebanon.
Some 200 people have been killed in Lebanon, most of them fighters from Hezbollah. Tens of thousands of people have evacuated their homes due to the violence.
In addition to the tensions between Israel and Lebanon, the United States recently bombed the Houthis, a Yemeni terror group that has shot missiles at commercial ships and at Israel in the wake of Oct. 7. American diplomats have worked to prevent the Israel-Hezbollah hostiles from ramping up.
Before returning to the United States from a recent trip to the Middle East, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told members of the press, “We want to make sure that through diplomacy we can create enough security and a strong sense of security. No one wants to see escalation there — Israel doesn’t, Lebanon doesn’t, and I actually don’t think Hezbollah does.”
Leaders of both Israel and Hezbollah appear to be anticipating the possibility of a wider war. Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hezbollah was “making a mistake with us” by firing missiles at Israel.
“We will do everything to return security to the residents of the north,” he said to a group of soldiers, according to video posted to social media. “We also prefer, of course, that this will not be a broader campaign, but that’s their decision.”
In a speech on Sunday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said his group “is causing losses to Israel.”
“The one who needs to fear from a war is Israel and the Israelis, and not Lebanon,” he said. “We have been preparing already 99 days for war and are not afraid of it. We will fight without any conditions.”
A recent poll by the Israel Democracy Institute found that Israelis are split regarding whether Israel should open a second front with Lebanon, with 51% in support and 34% against.
‘American Leadership Will Not Waver’: Senate Passes $95.3 Billion Aid Package for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan
After months of negotiations, the Senate passed a $95.3 billion aid package for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan on Tuesday by a vote of 70-29.
The bill, if signed by President Biden, would provide $14 billion in military assistance to Israel to help it replenish the Iron Dome and weapons that can help it defeat Hamas. While US President Joe Biden supports the bill, it is not certain to pass the House of Representatives.
The aid package gives $9.2 billion for humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, along with people in Ukraine and other war zones. However, it is well documented that much of the aid to Gaza does not reach Palestinian civilians but instead goes to Hamas.
The bill also provides about $5 billion toward countering Chinese aggression and $2.5 billion for fighting the Houthis as they continue to terrorize civilian ships in the Red Sea, disrupting global trade.
In the immediate aftermath of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the bill’s passage showed “that American leadership will not waver, not falter, not fail.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) said, in a statement, that “Our adversaries want America to decide that reinforcing allies and partners is not in our interest, and that investing in strategic competition is not worth it. They want us to take hard-earned credibility and light it on fire.”
“But today,” he wrote, “the Senate responded by reaffirming a commitment to rebuild and modernize our military, restore our credibility, and give the current Commander-in-Chief, as well as the next, more tools to secure our interests.”
More progressive members of the Senate objected to funding Israel in its war against Hamas. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), called the idea of voting for Israel funding “unconscionable.” He wrote, “This bill provides Netanyahu $10 billion more in unrestricted military aid for his horrific war against the Palestinian people. That is unconscionable. I will vote NO on final passage.”
Some conservatives also voted against the bill because it did not include provisions to secure the U.S.’s southern border. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), released a statement making clear that while “It is important that Israel eradicates Hamas, that Taiwan remains resilient against China’s threats, and that Ukraine defeats Russia,” he would vote for the bill “only after America’s border is secured.”
The bill faces an uphill battle to pass in the House, where Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has suggested provisions will have to be added to secure the southern border for him to bring it to the floor for a vote.
He said, “House Republicans were crystal clear from the very beginning of discussions that any so-called national security supplemental legislation must recognize that national security begins at our own border.“
Johnson continued, “In the absence of having received any single border policy change from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters.”
Police are investigating after a group of anti-Israel protesters targeted Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital
Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, a century-old Canadian medical institution originally built for Jewish doctors and patients who faced discrimination but which now treats all the city’s residents, became the latest target of anti-Israel protests on Feb.12. Protesters took over portions of southbound University Avenue with one individual climbing a scaffold and waving the Palestinian flag […]
Yeshiva Loses its Ninth Student in War in Gaza
Israelis on Monday woke up to bittersweet news: the good was the successful rescue of two hostages from the Gaza Strip. The bad, that three soldiers, Maj. Gen. Ziv Chen, Lt. Col. Nathaniel Elkoubi, and Maj. Yair Cohen were killed in separate fighting in the Strip.
Chen, 27, from Kfar Saba, was a graduate of a religious Zionist yeshiva in southern Israel which has now lost nine students in the war against Hamas in Gaza.
“We wanted to believe that we had finished paying the heavy price,” the head of the yeshiva, Rabbi Chaim Wolfson, told Hebrew media.
The yeshiva, Yeruham Hesder, is a program for observant Israelis who wish to combine regular military service with Torah study. A longer program than regular enlistments – five years total – there are thousands of students every year participating.
“We have lost a mainstay of the Beit Midrash (study hall). Ziv, as his name is, was all light,” Rabbi Wolfson added. “A loving and beloved man, I will bless you, everything he did was with infinite love. He loved people, loved the Torah, and everything he was involved in was done wholeheartedly.”
Chen was set to celebrate his wedding anniversary this upcoming Sunday with his wife Hillel, his family said.
At the funeral, held on Tuesday in his hometown, accompanied by hundreds of Israelis paying their respects, his uncle, Danny Chen, said about the fallen soldier: “He was a salt of the earth, a brilliant yeshiva student who loved the Land of Israel. He was a walking encyclopedia, very knowledgeable. Saturday night, two weeks ago, I saw him for the last time, always hugging and kissing. An exemplary child, a great loss. We are all shocked and hurt.”
The organization overseeing the Hesder yeshivot, the Hesder Yeshiva Association, released a statement that said, “We bitterly mourn the death of the soldier Maj. Gen. Ziv Chen, a fighter in the Givati Brigade, student of the Hesder Yeshiva Yeruham, who fell in the war. On behalf of the leaders of the Hesder Yeshivas and all the rabbis and students, we embrace the family, the the rabbis of the yeshiva, its students and graduates, and pray for an overwhelming victory of our heroic soldiers over our vile and cruel enemies. May his soul be wrapped in the bundle of life.”
The three soldiers who perished on Monday were the victims of an IED explosion in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, where the IDF has been concentrating its fighting for the last few weeks.
As mentioned, Chen is the ninth soldier to fall during the war from the Yeroham Yeshiva. The other eight are: Sergeant Ariel Eliyahu, 19, Staff Sergeant Yanon Fleishman, 31, First Sergeant Eitan Dov Rosenzweig, 21, Captain Eitan Fish, 23, Sergeant Yakir Yedidia Shankolevsky, 21, Advanced Sergeant Gideon Ilani, 35, First Sergeant Elisha Levinstern, 38, and First Sergeant Ephraim Yachman, 21.