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Hezbollah warns Israel will pay 'heavy price' after 10 civilians killed in south Lebanon

Hezbollah warned Israel would "pay the price" for killing ten civilians,0 including five children, in Lebanon. The latest escalation has fuelled concerns of a wider confrontation between the Hezbollah and Israel amid the war in Gaza, where thousands of Palestinians have been killed.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Beirut Published on: February 15, 2024 21:14 IST
Lebanon, airstrikes, Hezbollah, people killed
Image Source : REUTERS A damaged building after an Israeli airstrike in southern Lebanon.

Israel-Hamas war: Israel launched multiple airstrikes on southern Lebanon on Thursday targeting Hezbollah infrastructure and launch posts while it is occupied with the fight against Hamas, resulting in the deaths of at least 10 civilians. The UN called it a "dangerous escalation" of the conflict, which has fuelled concerns of a wider confrontation between Hezbollah and Israel.

Hezbollah warned of a retaliation, saying Israel would "pay the price" for killing ten civilians including five children in Lebanon. Israel, on the other hand, said it had killed a commander in Hezbollah's elite Radwan unit, his commander and another operative in a "precise airstrike" in Nabatieh, without mentioning the civilian deaths. Three Hezbollah fighters were killed in the assault, said the Iran-backed group.

Seven of the civilians were killed in Nabatieh late on Wednesday when a rare Israeli strike on the southern city hit a multi-storey building, sources in Lebanon said. The dead were from the same extended family, and included three children. It followed an earlier attack that killed a woman and two children in the village of al-Sawana at the border, who were buried on Thursday.

A deteriorating situation

"The enemy will pay the price for these crimes," Hezbollah politician Hassan Fadlallah told Reuters, saying Hezbollah had a "legitimate right to defend its people". The bodies of the children, wrapped in green shrouds, were so small they each fitted on two plastic chairs as people came to pay respects.

Israeli government spokesperson Avi Hyman said Israel's "message to Hezbollah has been and always will be: 'Don't try us'. As Defence Minister Gallant said at the beginning of the war, we will copy and paste what we've done in Gaza to Hamas, in Lebanon," he said. Both sides have said that they don't seek an all-out war, but Israel seemed to be testing "the rules of engagement" by hitting dozens of Hezbollah targets on Thursday.

A source familiar with Hezbollah thinking said the attack on Nabatieh marked an escalation but was still within unwritten "rules of engagement" by which much of the violence has been contained near the border. Strikes on dense urban areas far from the border, like those on Nabatieh on Wednesday, are considered rare.

Andrea Tenenti, spokesman for UNIFIL, the UN's peacekeeping force in Lebanon, said it had noted a "concerning shift in the exchanges of fire, including targeting of areas far from the Blue Line" - the current demarcation between the countries.

Hezbollah has been waging near-daily attacks on Israeli targets at the border since its Palestinian ally Hamas stormed Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and abducting some 250 people. Hezbollah has said its campaign will stop only when Israel halts its offensive on the Gaza Strip, where more than 28,000 people have been killed according to health authorities in Hamas-run Gaza.

The violence has killed more than 200 people in Lebanon, including more than 170 Hezbollah fighters, as well as around a dozen Israeli troops and five Israeli civilians, as well as uprooting tens of thousands on both sides.

What is happening in Gaza?

Meanwhile, Israeli troops entered the the main hospital in southern Gaza on Thursday in what the army said was a limited operation seeking the remains of hostages taken by Hamas. One patient died and seven were wounded when Nasser Hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis came under fire on Wednesday.

Israel accuses Hamas of using hospitals and other civilian structures to shield its fighters. The military said it had “credible intelligence” that Hamas had held hostages at the hospital and that the remains of hostages might still be inside. Negotiations over a cease-fire in Gaza appear to have stalled, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue the offensive until Hamas is destroyed and scores of hostages are returned.

The head of the Arab League on Thursday warned that an Israeli ground offensive into Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah would lead to “a humanitarian disaster” and threaten stability in the region. The leaders of Canada, Australia and New Zealand on Thursday called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, expressing concern of Israel's planned offensive in Rafah, bordering Egypt.

(with inputs from agencies)

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