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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Hezbollah, Israel commerce heavy cross-border hearth as Blinken seeks to forestall regional escalation

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BEIRUT — Israel and Lebanon-based Hezbollah traded hearth Saturday in one of many heaviest days of cross-border combating in latest weeks, a day after the militia’s chief urged retaliation for the focused killing, presumably by Israel, of a high Hamas chief in Lebanon’s capital.

Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah mentioned that if his group did not strike again for the killing Tuesday of Saleh Arouri, Hamas’ deputy political chief, all of Lebanon could be susceptible to Israeli assaults.

With the chance of regional escalation, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken kicked off an pressing Center East diplomatic tour, his fourth because the Israel-Hamas struggle erupted three months in the past.

“It’s completely essential to keep away from Lebanon being dragged right into a regional battle,” the European Union’s international coverage chief, Josep Borrell, mentioned in Beirut throughout his personal Center East tour.

Hezbollah mentioned it launched 62 rockets towards an Israeli air surveillance base on Mount Meron and scored direct hits in its “preliminary response” to Arouri’s killing. It mentioned rockets additionally struck two military posts close to the border. The Israeli army mentioned about 40 rockets have been fired towards Meron and {that a} base was focused. The military’s chief spokesperson, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, mentioned the rockets brought on no casualties in Israel.

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Hagari mentioned the army struck the Hezbollah squads that fired the rockets and likewise attacked Hezbollah army websites. Hezbollah mentioned six of its fighters have been killed Saturday, elevating the toll because the combating started to 150.

Israeli airstrikes on southern Lebanon hit the outskirts of Kouthariyeh al-Siyad, a village about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the border, Lebanon’s state-run Nationwide Information Company mentioned, including that there have been casualties. Such strikes deeper inside Lebanon have been uncommon because the border combating began practically three months in the past. NNA additionally mentioned Israeli forces shelled border areas together with the city of Khiam.

Individually, the armed wing of the Islamic Group in Lebanon, the nation’s department of the Muslim Brotherhood and a detailed ally of Hamas, mentioned it fired two volleys of rockets towards the Israeli metropolis of Kiryat Shmona on Friday evening. Two of the group’s members have been killed within the strike that killed Arouri.

The struggle in Gaza was triggered by a lethal Hamas assault on southern Israel during which militants killed about 1,200 individuals, principally civilians, and took roughly 250 hostages.

In latest weeks, Israel has been scaling again its army assault in northern Gaza and urgent its offensive within the territory’s south, the place most of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians are being squeezed into smaller areas in a humanitarian catastrophe whereas being pounded by Israeli airstrikes.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a video assertion reiterated that “the struggle should not be stopped” till the goals of eliminating Hamas, getting Israel’s hostages returned and guaranteeing that Gaza will not be a menace to Israel are met.

On Saturday, the Well being Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza mentioned 122 Palestinians had been killed over the previous 24 hours, bringing the full because the begin of the struggle to 22,722. The depend doesn’t differentiate between combatants and civilians. The ministry has mentioned two-thirds of these killed have been ladies or kids. The general wounded rose to 58,166, the ministry mentioned.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital within the central metropolis of Deir al-Balah acquired at the least 46 our bodies in a single day, in keeping with hospital data seen by The Related Press. Many have been males who apparently had been shot. The {dead} additionally included 5 members of a household who have been killed in an airstrike.

The newest Israeli-dropped leaflets urged Palestinians in some areas close to the hospital to evacuate, citing “harmful combating.”

Within the southern Gaza metropolis of Khan Younis, the main target of Israel’s floor offensive, the European Hospital acquired the our bodies of 18 individuals killed in an in a single day airstrike on a home, mentioned Saleh al-Hamms, head of the hospital’s nursing division. Citing witnesses, he mentioned greater than three dozen individuals had been sheltering in the home, together with some who had been displaced.

Israel has held Hamas chargeable for civilian casualties, saying the group embeds itself inside Gaza’s civilian infrastructure. Nonetheless, worldwide criticism of Israel’s conduct has grown due to the rising civilian demise toll. The USA has urged Israel to do extra to forestall hurt to civilians, even because it sends weapons and munitions whereas shielding its shut ally in opposition to worldwide censure.

The U.S. additionally has pressed Israel to let way more help into Gaza. Two U.S. senators who visited Egypt’s Rafah border crossing described traces of lots of of vehicles which have been ready for weeks to enter.

Blinken started his newest Mideast journey in Turkey, which the Biden administration believes can exert affect, notably on Iran and its proxies, to tamp down fears of a regional conflagration.

These fears have spiked in latest days with incidents within the Purple Sea, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran. On Saturday, a drone launched from an space of Yemen managed by the Houthi militant group was shot down by the U.S. destroyer Laboon close to a number of industrial vessels within the Purple Sea, the U.S. Central Command mentioned in a press release, including there have been no casualties or harm reported.

In talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and International Minister Hakan Fidan, Blinken sought help for nascent plans for post-war Gaza that would embody financial or in-kind contributions to reconstruction efforts and a few type of participation in a proposed multinational drive that would function in or adjoining to the territory.

Blinken then traveled to Turkish rival and fellow NATO ally Greece to fulfill Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who has been supportive of U.S. efforts to forestall the Israel-Hamas struggle from spreading.

Different stops embody Jordan, adopted by Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on Sunday and Monday. Blinken will go to Israel and the West Financial institution subsequent week earlier than wrapping up the journey in Egypt.

The EU’s international coverage chief additionally will go to Saudi Arabia on Sunday. He mentioned he goals to jump-start a European-Arab initiative to revive a peace course of that might lead to a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian battle.


Magdy reported from Cairo and Jobain reported from Rafah, Gaza Strip. Related Press writers Matthew Lee in Istanbul, Julia Frankel in Jerusalem, Abby Sewell in Beirut and Tara Copp in Washington contributed to this report.

___ Discover extra of AP’s protection at: https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

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