Live updates on Israel-Hamas war: Strikes in Lebanon and Palestinians flee besieged hospital

Live updates on Israel-Hamas war: Strikes in Lebanon and Palestinians flee besieged hospital

Israel carried out widespread and deadly airstrikes in southern Lebanon on Wednesday in response to a deadly rocket attack on northern Israel, an escalation of recent fighting that threatens to derail diplomatic efforts to prevent major expansion of the war in the Gaza Strip.

The rocket attack from Lebanon was the second in two days to cause casualties in northern Israel, hitting a military base near the town of Safed – beyond the border area that Israel has since evacuated months due to the fighting. One soldier was killed, the army said, identifying him as serving in the Israeli border protection service. Eight other people were injured, according to Magen David Adom, the emergency medical service.

Responsibility was not immediately claimed, but suspicion quickly fell on Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia allied with Hamas, the armed group that Israel has been fighting in Gaza for more than four months. Hezbollah and Israel have launched dozens of retaliatory strikes on both sides across the border, fueling fears that the exchanges could turn into a veritable second war front.

Hours after the rocket attack, the Israeli military said it had carried out strikes against “a series of Hezbollah terrorist targets,” including compounds and control rooms. Lebanese television channels broadcast images and videos of plumes of smoke and destruction. The official news agency reported that the strikes hit at least eight areas, kill a woman and her two children; Hezbollah said one of its fighters had also been killed, and a senior member of the group, Hashem Safieddine, promised to respond.

On Wednesday evening, three more people died in an attack on a building in Nabatieh, in southern Lebanon, according to civil protection authorities. Lebanese state media said the attack, deeper into Lebanon than most Israeli attacks, was an Israeli drone strike. The regional governor said schools and government offices in Nabatiyeh would be closed on Thursday.

Israeli officials have repeatedly warned that they will take much stronger military action in Lebanon if cross-border violence continues; Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and 2006 in response to such attacks.

Benny Gantz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s emergency war cabinet, said Monday that Israel could target the Lebanese army in addition to Hezbollah. Any incursion into Lebanon or strike against the Lebanese army would mark a major escalation of the conflict.

“It is important that we are clear: the person responsible for the shooting from Lebanon is not only Hezbollah or the terrorist elements that carry it out, but also the government of Lebanon and the Lebanese state which authorizes the shooting from its territory” , Gantz said, adding: “There is no military target or infrastructure in the northern region and Lebanon that is not in our crosshairs. »

Israeli army chief of staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi warned that “now is not the time to stop” strikes against Hezbollah – which, like Hamas, is backed by Iran – and warned that “there is still a long way to go”. .”

Hezbollah has been equally provocative. Hassan Nazrallah, the group’s leader, said Tuesday: “You get worse, we get worse.”

The latest strikes threaten to derail diplomatic efforts by the United States and other countries to defuse cross-border tensions. A Western diplomat said Tuesday that France had presented a proposal to Israel, the Lebanese government and Hezbollah. The French proposal details a 10-day de-escalation process and calls on Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters to a distance of about six miles from the border, according to the diplomat involved in the talks who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive matters . deliberations.

Clashes between Hezbollah and Israel have displaced more than 150,000 people on both sides of the Israeli-Lebanese border since the start of the war with Hamas.

Mr Netanyahu is reluctant to open a second front as the Israeli military continues to push for an invasion of Gaza, but he has faced calls from some displaced residents and hardliners – including some members of his own far-right government coalition. — to take more forceful measures.

Avigdor Liberman, a former top adviser to Mr Netanyahu who now leads an opposition party, accused the government of waving a “white flag” against Hezbollah by failing to take strong enough measures to stop the rocket attacks.

“The war cabinet surrendered to Hezbollah and lost the North,” he said. wrote on social networks Wednesday after the attack in Safed.

The Israeli military said the rockets from Lebanon landed in the areas of Netu’a, Manara and on a military base near Safed, a town of nearly 40,000 people, about 13 kilometers south of the border. Four Israeli military bases are near Safed, and rocket alerts are not uncommon there, but deaths and direct fire are rare, said Tamir Engel, a city spokesman.

In early January, Hezbollah fired rockets at a small military base in the region. The group said it was retaliating for the assassination days earlier of a top Hamas commander in Lebanon; Israel said at the time that there were no casualties in the attack.

Euan district, Adam Sella And John Reiss reports contributed.

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Eric D. Eilerman

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