Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned Thursday that Israel would strike whoever sent the terrorist who carried out the bombing attack near Meggido earlier this week, stressing that the investigation into the incident is ongoing.
"This is a complex incident with many loose ends, but one thing is certain, we will conduct a full investigation of all the details, even if it takes us some time," said Gallant.
"A burdensome and serious incident was prevented as a result of a determined, responsible and very serious effort by the IDF and all the security agencies. The potential damage was large.
"This operation was carried out with tight cooperation between the various agencies and brought an impressive, if not perfect, result," added the defense minister, stressing "I want to say in the clearest terms possible: whoever carried out this attack will regret that he carried out an attack against the citizens of the State of Israel. We will find the proper time and act in the proper way to strike them."
"I want to say in the clearest terms possible: whoever carried out this attack will regret that he carried out an attack against the citizens of the State of Israel. We will find the proper time and act in the proper way to strike them."Yoav Gallant
Gallant made the comments after holding a situation assessment with IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, the commander of IDF Northern Command, Uri Gordin, and the commander of the Galilee Formation (91st Division), Shai Klapper.
Explosive device detonated next to Highway 65
On Monday, an explosive device detonated next to Highway 65 near Meggido, seriously injuring Sherif al-Din, a resident of the village of Salem. As of Wednesday, Din was still hospitalized at Rambam Health Care Campus in serious condition, sedated and intubated.
"Whoever carried out this attack will regret that he carried out an attack against the citizens of the State of Israel. We will find the proper time and act in the proper way to strike them."Defense Minister Yoav Gallant
On Wednesday, over 48 hours after the attack, the defense establishment permitted the publication of some details about the attack.
IDF sources said that from the start of the probe, Israeli security forces knew that the character of the improvised explosive device (IED) was not similar to explosives seen from terror emanating from the West Bank.
Estimates from military sources are that the terrorist who set the Megiddo junction bomb infiltrated into Israel from Lebanon on either Saturday or Sunday.
The terrorist who planted the explosive was found in a car on Route 899 along with a driver, IDF sources said. Police commandos from the YAMAM Unit and Shin Bet operatives found the car and approached it to make arrests.
During the arrest attempt, the forces believed that the terrorist presented a danger to them, leading them to fire on and neutralize him, according to military sources. The terrorist was wearing an explosive belt when he was arrested.
The security establishment is still probing exactly where the terrorist crossed the Lebanese border.
On Thursday, UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti stated in response to the reports about the Meggido bomber that "UNIFIL has not noticed any crossing of the Blue Line in recent days."
"The UNIFIL head of mission and commander-in-chief, Maj.-Gen. Aroldo Lázaro, urges the two parties to exercise restraint, maintain stability and use UNIFIL coordination and liaison mechanisms to avoid misunderstandings and reduce tensions."
Although the northern border has been one of Israel’s quieter ones for a long time, IDF sources said that if they conclude that Hezbollah at its highest levels did order the attack, there will be consequences and Israel will not remain silent.
On Thursday, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported that Hezbollah does not intend to comment on the Meggido bombing in the meantime, but is monitoring the reactions in Israel and will only react if it is directly accused or threatened by the Israeli government.
"The situation in the enemy's entity is unprecedented on the internal level, the strategic environment and the current foolish government are pushing matters into two major clashes, the first internally in Israel and the second with the Palestinians, and it may extend throughout the region."Hassan Nasrallah
In February, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah stated that "The situation in the enemy's entity is unprecedented on the internal level, the strategic environment and the current foolish government are pushing matters into two major clashes, the first internally in Israel and the second with the Palestinians, and it may extend throughout the region."
Nasrallah additionally referred to tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank and "lone wolf" terrorist attacks against Israelis, saying "the foolish Zionist government may push for escalation in the entire region, not only in Palestine, and this is a possibility, especially if al-Aqsa Mosque is damaged."
Tuesday marked 43 years since Israel invaded Lebanon on March 14, 1978, sparking Operation Litani, after 11 terrorists from the PLO in Lebanon infiltrated into Israel by sea and massacred 35 civilians on a coastal road near Tel Aviv.
An initial investigation indicates that the terrorist who carried out the attack is Palestinian in background, implying that he is from one of the Palestinian refugee camps in southern Lebanon, Army Radio reported on Thursday.
Hamas has been working to expand activity in Lebanon recently
In recent years, Hamas has been working to expand its activity in southern Lebanon.
In October 2021, the ALMA Research Center noted that Hamas was building up its capabilities in southern Lebanon, but also angering Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army.
During and after Operation Guardian of the Walls in 2021, a number of rockets were fired from southern Lebanon into Israel, with defense experts estimating that Hamas was behind the launches. The ALMA report noted that Hezbollah was likely forced to join the rocket fire in that case "without genuinely desiring to."
ALMA noted on Wednesday that the terrorist who committed the Meggido bombing was likely affiliated with either Hezbollah or Hamas. The center noted that even if it was Hezbollah, it's likely that the terrorist group would prefer to use a Palestinian proxy in this case.
The center additionally noted that if Hamas is behind the attack, it likely took place under the direction of Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy head of Hamas' military bureau, and Hamas' military headquarters in Sidon.
On Tuesday, Arouri stated that Israel "is no longer able to engage in an expanded engagement on all fronts and at all levels. We are now well aware of the weaknesses of our enemy."
On Wednesday, Marwan Issa, the deputy head of Hamas's Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, stated that "The political project in the West Bank has ended, and the enemy has ended Oslo, and the coming days will be full of events."
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.