Senior Hamas official in Lebanon survives Israeli strike: Sources

AFP , Saturday 10 Feb 2024

A senior Hamas official survived Saturday an Israeli assassination attempt in Lebanon, a Palestinian security source told AFP, with rescuers reporting two civilians killed in the strike south of Beirut.

Lebanese army soldiers secure the area around a car wrecked in a reported Israeli drone strike in th
Lebanese army soldiers secure the area around a car wrecked in a reported Israeli drone strike in the village of Jadra between Beirut and the southern city of Sidon, on February 10, 2024. AFP


Israeli forces and the Lebanese movement Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, have traded near-daily fire since the Israeli war on Gaza broke out on October 7.

But the Israel-Lebanon violence has been largely contained to the border area, and Saturday's strike was the second-farthest deadly attack from the frontier in four months of hostilities.

Lebanon's state-run National News Agency (NNA) said an Israeli drone struck a car in the coastal town of Jadra, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the border.

The Palestinian source, requesting anonymity for security concerns, said the strike "was a failed attempt to assassinate a senior official in the (Hamas) movement".

A Lebanese security official, also requesting anonymity, identified the target as Hamas recruitment officer Bassel Saleh.

Shortly after the initial strike on Saleh's car, a second Israeli drone hit the same location, killing two people, the official said.

Hezbollah said one of its members had died.

Saleh "survived but suffered burns on his back and was admitted to hospital", the Lebanese official said.

The official added Saleh is "in charge of a recruitment unit in the West Bank", occupied by Israel since 1967.

'Enemy drone' 

A Hamas official in Lebanon told AFP that no member of the group had been killed in the Jadra attack.

An official with the Lebanese Risala Scout association, which operates rescue teams and is affiliated with the Hezbollah-allied Amal movement, told AFP that two civilians had been killed.

But Hezbollah later announced one of its members had been killed by Israeli fire. A source close to the group told AFP the man, Khalil Fares, was one of the two people killed in his town of Jadra.

There was no immediate comment from Israel.

An AFP photographer at the scene saw a damaged car and a charred motorcycle nearby, with bloodstains all over the site of the strike near the beach.

On Saturday, the NNA reported several Israeli strikes on south Lebanon villages, with Hezbollah also claiming attacks on Israeli positions across the border.

Hezbollah in a statement also said it "took control of an Israeli enemy Skylark drone".

Cross-border fire since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza has killed at least 229 people in Lebanon, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also including 27 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

On the Israeli side, nine soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to the Israeli army.

On Thursday, an Israeli drone strike seriously wounded a Hezbollah commander in southern Lebanon, with the group later firing a salvo of rockets into northern Israel.

In January, a strike widely attributed to Israel killed Hamas's deputy leader Saleh al-Aruri in Hezbollah's south Beirut stronghold -- the most high-profile Hamas figure to be killed during the war.

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