Israel accused of killing Hezbollah member in border escalation

AFP , Monday 9 Oct 2023

An Israeli strike on a Lebanese watchtower killed a Hezbollah member on Monday, officials from the group said, as bombardment intensified after Palestinian militants tried to infiltrate Israel from Lebanon.

Israeli artillery bombing southern Lebanese border
Smoke billows following Israeli artillery bombing on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese border village of Aita al-Shaab. AFP


Israel's army said its soldiers had "killed a number of armed suspects" who had crossed the frontier from Lebanon and that its helicopters were striking the area.

The escalation on Israel's northern border with Lebanon comes two days after Hamas militants launched a massive attack on Israel's southern flank from the blockaded Gaza Strip.

"A member of Hezbollah was martyred in an Israeli strike on a watchtower in south Lebanon" near Aita al-Shaab village, one of the officials told AFP, with a spokesperson for the powerful Iran-backed group confirming the death.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad group's armed wing, which claims to be fighting Israel alongside Hamas, said earlier it was behind a thwarted bid to infiltrate Israel from Lebanon.

"Al-Quds brigade claims responsibility for the afternoon operation on the south Lebanon border," the group said in a statement.

The mayor of the border village of Dhayra said Israel was shelling the area.

"Fields on the outskirts of the village were subjected to intense Israeli artillery shelling, preceded by intermittent gunfire," the mayor, Abdullah al-Gharib, told AFP.

'Utmost caution' 

Hezbollah, whose arch-foe is Israel, had earlier denied any involvement in the border clashes.

An AFP photographer at the scene said he saw dozens of Lebanese and Syrian families fleeing as the outskirts of Aita al-Shaab village came under heavy bombardment.

The Lebanese army in a statement said the periphery of "Dhayra, Aita al-Shaab, and other border areas were subjected to air and artillery bombardment by the Israeli enemy".

It urged citizens "to take the utmost caution" and avoid border areas.

Andrea Tenenti, the spokesperson for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which acts as a buffer between Lebanon and Israel, said UNIFIL commander Aroldo Lazaro was "in contact with the involved parties".

He said Lazaro had urged them to exercise "maximum restraint" to prevent "further escalation and loss of life".

Lebanon's state-run National News Agency said Israel had expanded bombardment on the same border area with "enemy warplanes intensifying their flights and launching incendiary bombs".

The clash comes a day after Hezbollah said it had fired artillery shells and guided missiles at Israel, "in solidarity" with attacks launched from Gaza by its ally Hamas.

Israel's army said it hit back on Sunday with artillery into southern Lebanon.

In 2006 Hezbollah and Israel fought a 34-day war that left more than 1,200 dead in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 160 in Israel, mostly soldiers. The two countries remain technically at war.

Israel has warned Hezbollah against involvement in the war with Gaza.

At least 700 people in Israel and 560 in Gaza have been killed since the conflict erupted on Saturday, according to tolls from officials on both sides.

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