Israeli strikes spark fires in Lebanon, leave 2 dead, state media reports

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Israeli strikes spark fires in Lebanon, leave 2 dead, state media reports

Israeli strikes on Saturday killed two people and sparked wildfires in southern Lebanon, state media said. The Iran-backed armed group Hezbollah announced the death of one fighter.

Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas, has traded near-daily fire with Israeli forces in the eight months since the Gaza war began, triggered by the Palestinian militant group’s October 7 attack.

The deadly clashes have intensified in recent weeks, causing multiple brush fires on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border.

Lebanon’s official National News Agency (NNA) said on Saturday that “an Israeli drone carried out an air attack with two guided missiles, targeting a cafe in Aitarun and killing the cafe’s owner, Ali Khalil Hamad, 37, and a young man named Mustafa A. Issa.”

The agency also reported a “violent airstrike” on the border village of Khiam.

Shortly after, Hezbollah said it launched Katyusha rockets on a town across the border “in response to the Israeli enemy’s attacks against southern villages and safe houses, and the targeting of civilians, notably in Aitarun where two people were killed.”

The Shiite Muslim movement later announced that one of its fighters was killed by Israeli fire. It identified him as Radwan A. Issa, without providing further details.

The Israeli army said in a statement that “one of its planes struck a Hezbollah terrorist in the Aitarun region,” adding that they also struck targets in the area of Khiam.

More than eight months of border violence, which began on October 8, has killed 458 people in Lebanon, mostly fighters but including about 90 civilians, according to an Agence France-Presse tally.

On the Israeli side of the border, at least 15 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed, according to the army.

“Israeli artillery bombarded today the outskirts of the town of Alma al-Shaab with incendiary phosphorus shells, causing fires in the forests that spread to the vicinity of some homes,” NNA reported earlier on Saturday.

Lebanese authorities and several international rights groups have accused Israel of using white phosphorus rounds in its strikes on its northern neighbor.

White phosphorus, a substance that ignites on contact with oxygen, can be used as an incendiary weapon.

Its use as a chemical weapon is prohibited under international law, but it is allowed for illuminating battlefields and can be used as a smokescreen.

Further east, the NNA reported that “a large fire broke out at positions belonging to the Lebanese army and UNIFIL,” the United Nations peacekeeping mission, near the border village of Mais al-Jabal and near the U.N.-demarcated Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel.

In a statement, the U.N. peacekeepers reported a “bushfire near one of their positions in Hula,” which was put out with help from Lebanese troops and civil defense forces.

“The fire didn’t cause any damage to UNIFIL assets or personnel,” it said.

The NNA said “several landmines exploded, and firefighting operations are still continuing” in the area.

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