9 dead in Israel strikes on Lebanon after Israeli soldier killed

AFP , Thursday 15 Feb 2024

Nine people, seven of them civilians, were killed on Wednesday in Israeli strikes on south Lebanon, official sources said, while the Israeli army said it lost a soldier in cross-border rocket fire.

Civil defence and rescue workers remove rubbles from a building that was attacked Wednesday night by an Israeli airstrike, in Nabatiyeh town, south Lebanon, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. AP


While the rocket attack was not immediately claimed, the exchanges of fire -- and the worst single-day civilian death toll in Lebanon since cross-border hostilities began in October -- raised fears of a broader conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.

On Wednesday evening, four civilians from the same family "including two women" were killed in an Israeli strike on a residential building in the city of Nabatiyeh, a Lebanese security source told AFP.

"The residents of the apartment targeted have no links to Hezbollah," added the source, requesting anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Earlier, Lebanon's state-run National News Agency (NNA) said Israeli warplanes targeted a house in south Lebanon's Sawwaneh, killing three members of the same family, identifying them as a Syrian woman and her child, aged two, and stepchild, 13.

The agency said another Israeli attack targeting the village of Adshit killed one person, whom Hezbollah announced was one of its fighters, and wounded 10 others, destroying a building and causing significant damage nearby.

The Israeli army said in a statement that Sergeant Omer Sarah Benjo, 20, was killed "as a result of a (rocket) launch carried out from Lebanese territory on a base in northern Israel".

Fighter jets struck a series of "Hezbollah terror targets" in several areas of south Lebanon including Adshit and Sawwaneh, the military said.

The Israeli military and the Iran-backed Lebanese group have been trading near daily cross-border fire since the Israel war on Gaza began in October.

Hezbollah said a second fighter was killed elsewhere in south Lebanon on Wednesday, but claimed no attacks on Israeli troops or positions.

'Heavy price'


Israel's Magen David Adom emergency service had said seven people were wounded in fire from Lebanon, five of them in the town of Safed.

An AFP photographer saw medics and troops evacuating a wounded person by military helicopter from Safed's Ziv hospital.

Israeli army chief Herzi Halevi said after meeting commanders near the Lebanese border that Israel's "next campaign will be very much on the offensive, and we will use all the tools and all capabilities".

"We are intensifying the strikes all the time, and Hezbollah are paying an increasingly heavy price," he said in a statement.

Senior Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine on Wednesday said that "this aggression... will not go unanswered".

A day earlier, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said that fire from southern Lebanon would end "when the attack on Gaza stops and there is a ceasefire" between the group's Palestinian allies Hamas and arch-foe Israel.

"If they (Israel) broaden the confrontation, we will do the same," Nasrallah warned.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border amid soaring regional tensions.

Fears have been growing of another full-blown conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, who last went to war in 2006.

'Diplomatic path'

The UN secretary-general's spokesman Stephane Dujarric warned that "the recent escalation is dangerous indeed and should stop."

Peacekeepers from the United Nations mission in Lebanon, or UNIFIL, had noticed "a concerning shift in the exchanges of fire between the Israeli armed forces and armed groups in Lebanon", he added.

The attacks included the "targeting of areas far from the Blue Line", he said, referring to the withdrawal line demarcated by the UN in 2000 after Israeli troops pulled out of southern Lebanon.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that Washington would continue to push for a "diplomatic path" to resolve the cross-border tensions.

"One of our primary objectives from the outset of this conflict is to see that it not be widened," he added.

The cross-border violence has killed at least 253 people on the Lebanese side, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also including 37 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to the Israeli army.

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