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Israeli air force strikes deep inside Lebanon, killing 2 people

The strikes are among the deepest into Lebanon since the Israel-Hamas war began more than four months ago.
Israeli air force strikes deep inside Lebanon, killing 2 people
Posted at 7:24 AM, Feb 26, 2024

The Israeli military said its air force on Monday struck targets of the militant Hezbollah group “deep inside Lebanon,” where residents reported explosions near the northeastern city of Baalbek. At least two people were killed in the strikes, a Hezbollah official said.

The strikes are among the deepest into Lebanon since the Israel-Hamas war began more than four months ago. They come a day after Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vowed to step up attacks on Lebanon’s Hezbollah even if a cease-fire is reached with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The strikes, which came shortly after Hezbollah said its air defense shot down an Israeli drone, are likely to increase tensions along the Lebanon-Israel border as talks for a cease-fire in Gaza are underway.

Lebanese security officials said Israel’s air force carried out three airstrikes on the outskirts of the village of Buday, near Baalbek, targeting a convoy of trucks. Buday is a Hezbollah stronghold.

SEE MORE: Israel hints at progress in Gaza truce talks with Hamas amid conflict

A Hezbollah official confirmed that three strikes hit near Baalbek. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters. He said the strikes killed at least two people and that one hit a warehouse for food products that is part of Hezbollah's Sajjad Project that sells to people in its stronghold at prices lower than on the market.

The airstrikes near Baalbek occurred less than two hours after Hezbollah said its fighters on Monday shot down an Israeli Elbit Hermes 450 drone over its stronghold in a province in southern Lebanon. Another missile fired by Hezbollah toward the drone was intercepted by Israel, and landed near a synagogue in a town close to Nazareth in northern Israel. There were no injuries or damage.

The Israeli army said in a statement later in the day that its fighter jets struck sites used by Hezbollah in the eastern Bekaa Valley. It said they were in retaliation for Hezbollah's firing of a surface-to-air missile at the Israeli drone.

Hezbollah has been exchanging fire with Israeli troops along the border since the Israel-Hamas broke on Oct. 7.

The strike on Baalbek, because of its location deep inside Lebanon, is the most significant one since the early January airstrike on Beirut that killed top Hamas official Saleh Arouri.

Hezbollah, which has been exchanging fire with Israel throughout the war in Gaza, has said it will halt its near-daily attacks on Israel if a cease-fire is reached in Gaza. Hezbollah is an ally of the Palestinain militant Hamas group.

However, Gallant, the Israeli defense minister, said Sunday that anyone who thinks a temporary cease-fire for Gaza will also apply to the northern front is “mistaken.”

SEE MORE: US pauses funding to UN agency for Palestinians

Western diplomats have brought forward a series of proposals for a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, most of which would hinge on Hezbollah moving its forces 4-6 miles away from the border.

This will come in addition to a beefed-up Lebanese army presence, and negotiations for Israeli forces to withdraw from disputed points along the border where Lebanon says Israel has been occupying small patches of Lebanese territory since it withdrew from the rest of country's south in 2000.

Lebanon's caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib said Monday that he discussed with the country's prime minister, Najib Mikati, a French proposal about the southern region, adding that the Lebanese side is working on a response that the French should have by next week.

“We welcome the French role,” Bouhabib said, adding that Lebanon wants a solution that includes the disputed Chebaa Farms and Kfar Chouba hills that Israel captured from Syria during the 1967 Mideast war. Beirut says the disputed area belongs to Lebanon and Israel should withdraw from there.

Hezbollah has signaled willingness to entertain the proposals but has said there will be no deal in Lebanon before there is a cease-fire in Gaza.

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