Hezbollah fires rockets at Israel after fighter killed

Hezbollah chief Hassan NasrallahReuters file photo

Hezbollah said it fired "dozens" of rockets into northern Israel on Thursday in retaliation for a deadly strike in south Lebanon, a day after a fiery speech from the group's leader.

Israel and Hezbollah, a powerful Lebanese movement allied with Hamas, have traded near-daily cross-border fire since the Palestinian militant group's 7 October attack on Israel which triggered war in the Gaza Strip.

Fears of a regional war surged after Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned on Wednesday that "no place" in Israel would be spared in the event of all-out war against his group, and threatened the nearby island nation of Cyprus if it opened its airports to Israel.

Hezbollah on Thursday said that "in response to the assassination that the Israeli enemy carried out in the village of Deir Kifa", fighters targeted an Israeli barracks "with dozens of Katyusha rockets".

Lebanon's official National News Agency (NNA) had reported one dead after an "enemy drone" struck a vehicle in south Lebanon's Deir Kifa area.

Hezbollah announced that one of its fighters was killed. A source close to the group, requesting anonymity, told AFP he was killed in the Deir Kifa strike.

The Israeli military said an air strike "eliminated" a Hezbollah operative in the Deir Kifa area, saying he was "responsible for planning and carrying out terror attacks against Israel and commanding Hezbollah ground forces" in south Lebanon's Jouaiyya area.

Elsewhere, Israeli fighter jets struck "a Hezbollah surface-to-air missile launcher that posed a threat to aircraft operating over Lebanon", the army statement added.

Hezbollah claimed several other attacks on Israeli troops and positions on Thursday, while the NNA reported further Israeli strikes in south Lebanon.

'Stop the firing'

The exchanges between the foes, which last went to war in 2006, have escalated in recent weeks, and the Israeli military said Tuesday that "operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon were approved and validated".

After the Hezbollah leader's threats against Cyprus, Lebanon's foreign ministry said on Thursday that "relations between Lebanon and Cyprus are based on a rich history of diplomatic cooperation".

Contacts and consultations continue between the two countries "at the highest levels", a foreign ministry statement said, without making specific reference to Nasrallah's remarks.

In a conversation with his Cyprus counterpart, foreign minister Abdallah Bou Habib expressed "Lebanon's constant reliance on the positive role that Cyprus plays in supporting regional stability", the NNA reported.

Lebanese prime minister Najib Mikati and British foreign secretary David Cameron discussed bilateral relations "and the situation in Lebanon and the region" in a telephone call, the premier's office said in a statement.

Also on Thursday, the United Nations special coordinator for Lebanon Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said there was "no inevitability to conflict" as she visited UN peacekeepers deployed in the Lebanese border town of Naqura.

"It is crucial for all sides to stop the firing and for the parties to commit to sustainable solutions in line with Security Council Resolution 1701," she said in a statement.

The resolution ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah and called for the Lebanese army and UN peacekeepers to be the only armed forces deployed in the country's south.

The cross-border violence since October has killed at least 479 people in Lebanon, most of them fighters but also including 93 civilians, according to an AFP tally. Israeli authorities say at least 15 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed in the country's north.

Also Read