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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Lebanon’s Hezbollah intensifies attacks on Israel

Since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7, the border between Lebanon and Israel has witnessed escalating exchanges of fire, primarily involving Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, along with Palestinian groups.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah group on Thursday intensified its attacks on Israel from southern Lebanon where Israeli bombardments killed seven of its fighters, including members of an elite unit.

Since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7, the border between Lebanon and Israel has witnessed escalating exchanges of fire, primarily involving Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, along with Palestinian groups.

The clashes have raised fears of a broader conflagration.

Hezbollah said it carried out more than 20 attacks on Israeli military positions and claimed to have caused casualties.

In one of the attacks, it said it fired 48 Katyusha rockets at a military base at Ein Zeitim, near the town of Safed in northern Israel, about 10 kilometres (six miles) from the border.

That attack marked the largest rocket salvo to be fired by the Iran-backed group since violence broke out last month. Hezbollah said it also used the heavy-duty Burkan missile in another attack against an Israeli border position.

The Israeli army said that, in response to fire towards Israel, its helicopters and fighters jets had struck “terrorist infrastructure” belonging to Hezbollah, as well as rocket launch sites.

Lebanon’s official National News Agency said the Israeli army had shelled several locations in southern Lebanon in response.

Hezbollah says it has been acting in support of Hamas since the Palestinian Islamist movement’s October 7 attacks on Israel, which Israeli officials say killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and saw about 240 people taken hostage.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas and its retaliatory air and ground offensive in the Gaza Strip has killed nearly 15,000 people, thousands of them children, according to the Hamas government of the Palestinian territory.

Read more: BBC Faces Accusations of Bias in Coverage of Israel-Gaza Conflict

– ‘Great victory’ –

Thursday’s exchange of fire came as Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

In a statement, Hezbollah said Amir-Abdollahian and Nasrallah “reviewed the latest developments in Palestine, Lebanon and the region, and… the efforts made to end the Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip”.

Amir-Abdollahian, who warned on Wednesday that the war could spiral out of control, left Beirut for Doha after their meeting, Iran’s Nour news agency reported.

Iran, which backs Hamas and Hezbollah, celebrated the October 7 attacks but denied any direct involvement.

Read more: Truce between Israel and Hamas begins Friday at 7 a.m.

The violence between Israel and Hezbollah has claimed at least 109 lives in Lebanon, most of them Hezbollah fighters, but also at least 14 civilians, including three journalists, according to an AFP count.

Six Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed on the Israeli side, according to the authorities.

Hezbollah held funerals on Thursday for militants killed in southern Lebanon, including the son of a member of parliament.

Abbas Raad, the son of Hezbollah MP Mohamed Raad, was killed with four others in an Israeli strike on a house in Beit Yahoun village on Wednesday evening, a source close to the family told AFP, requesting anonymity.

Two leaders of Hezbollah’s elite Al-Radwan force were among the five killed, according to a source close to the group.

Two more fighters were subsequently announced dead by Hezbollah.

Israel and Hamas on Wednesday agreed a four-day truce and a hostage and prisoner swap which is now expected to start on Friday.

In Tehran, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said Israel had failed to achieve its war objectives and “the Palestinian people and resistance won a great victory”, the official IRNA news agency reported.