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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon escalate amid cross-border clashes

Israeli airstrikes hit Najjariyeh and Addousiyeh, two villages located approximately 30 kilometers from the Israeli border.

Recent developments in the volatile Middle Eastern conflict have seen a significant escalation as Israeli airstrikes targeted areas in southern Lebanon, far from the Israeli border. This intensification of hostilities follows the cross-border fire exchange between Hezbollah and Israeli forces that began in the aftermath of Hamas’s attack on southern Israel on October 7, 2023. The ongoing conflict, now in its eighth month, has led to casualties on both sides, exacerbating regional tensions.

Airstrikes in Southern Lebanon

On Friday, Israeli airstrikes hit Najjariyeh and Addousiyeh, two villages located approximately 30 kilometers from the Israeli border, near the coastal city of Sidon. Lebanese state-run National News Agency (NNA) reported that the strikes resulted in multiple casualties. According to sources close to Hezbollah, three individuals, including two Syrian nationals, were killed in Najjariyeh. An AFP photographer documented ambulances responding to the scene, noting that the strikes targeted a pickup truck and an orchard.

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Hezbollah’s Retaliatory Actions

Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militant group allied with Hamas, has been actively involved in the cross-border conflict. Following the Israeli airstrikes, Hezbollah announced that it had launched “attack drones” targeting Israeli military positions. The group claimed responsibility for an earlier attack on an Israeli army position in Metula, a border town in northern Israel, which wounded three soldiers. This attack reportedly used drones equipped with S5 rockets, a weapon typically launched from jets.

Civilian Casualties and International Reactions

The strikes have not only affected combatants but also civilians. The NNA reported the deaths of two Syrian children, Osama and Hani al-Khaled, in Najjariyeh. UNICEF condemned the incident, emphasizing the obligation under international humanitarian law to protect children. The Israeli military justified the strikes by stating that Hezbollah’s aerial defense operations from civilian areas endanger local populations.

Expanded Hostilities

Hezbollah’s attacks have intensified, with the group launching dozens of Katyusha rockets into Israeli positions in the Golan Heights and other regions. In response, Israel conducted overnight air raids in Lebanon’s eastern Baalbek region, a known Hezbollah stronghold. This cycle of attacks has resulted in significant casualties on both sides of the border. According to an AFP tally, the conflict has claimed at least 418 lives in Lebanon, including militants and civilians. On the Israeli side, 14 soldiers and 10 civilians have been killed.

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Hamas, which instigated the conflict with its October 7 raid, remains actively engaged through its allies. On Friday, Hamas announced the death of a local commander, Sharhabil Sayed, in an Israeli strike in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley. This incident highlights the interconnected nature of militant groups in the region and their collective impact on the ongoing conflict.