Beirut— Israel and the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah exchanged fire on Saturday in one of the most intense days of cross-border fighting in recent weeksa day after the militia leader promised retaliation for the assassination of a senior commander of Hamas in the Lebanese capital of Beirutallegedly at the hands of Israel
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallahsaid that if his group did not fight back in response to the murder of Saleh Arourithe deputy political leader of Hamas, occurred on Tuesday, all of Lebanon would be vulnerable to Israeli attacks.
Faced with the risk of intensifying the conflict in the region, the United States Secretary of State, Anthony Blinkenbegan a diplomatic tour of the Middle East, his fourth since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out three months ago.
“It is absolutely necessary to prevent Lebanon from being drawn into a regional conflict,” said Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy director, during his visit to Beirut as part of his own tour of the Middle East.
Hezbollah stated that it had launched 62 rockets at an Israeli air surveillance base on Mount Meron and had scored direct hits in its “initial response” to Arouri’s assassination. He noted that he also hit two army posts near the border. The Israeli military indicated that about 40 rockets had been fired towards Meron at a base. Israel’s chief military spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagarisaid the attacks left no victims in Israel.
Hagari added that the military forces attacked Hezbollah squads that launched the rockets and also hit military installations of the Lebanese group. Hezbollah said six of its fighters were killed on Saturday, raising the death toll since fighting began to 150.
Israeli airstrikes in southern Lebanon hit the outskirts of the town of Kouthariyeh al-Siyad, about 25 miles from the border, the Lebanese National News Agency reported., and added that there were victims. Such attacks inside Lebanon have been rare since border fighting began almost three months ago. The agency also said Israeli forces shelled border areas, including the town of Khiam.
Separately, the armed wing of the Islamic Group of Lebanon, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in the country and a close ally of Hamas, claimed to have fired two volleys of rockets at the Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona on Friday night. Two members of the group died in the attack that killed Arouri.
The war in Gaza Strip It was triggered by a deadly Hamas attack in southern Israel in which fighters killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took about 250 hostages.
In recent weeks, Israel has scaled back its military assault on northern Gaza and intensified its offensive in the territory’s south, where most of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians are crowded into smaller areas, causing a humanitarian disaster while They continue to be bombed by Israel.
The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahureiterated in a video speech that “the war must not be interrupted” until the objectives of eliminating Hamas, securing the release of Israeli hostages, and guaranteeing that Gaza will not be a threat to Israel are achieved.
On Saturday, the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza reported that 122 Palestinians had died in the past 24 hours, for a total since the start of the war of 22,722. The count does not distinguish between combatants and civilians. The agency has said that two-thirds of the dead have been women or children. The total number of injured rose to 58,166, the ministry said.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the city of Deir al Balah in the central Gaza Strip received at least 46 bodies overnight, according to hospital records accessed. The Associated Press had access. Many were men who had apparently been shot. Also among the dead were five members of a family who were killed in an airstrike.
The latest pamphlets released by the Israelis asked Palestinians to evacuate some areas near the hospital, citing “dangerous fighting.”
In the city of Khan Younis, the focal point of Israel’s ground offensive in the south of the territory, the European Hospital received the bodies of 18 people who died in an overnight airstrike on a home, said Saleh al-Hamms, director of the hospital nursing department. He pointed out, mentioning what witnesses said, that more than thirty people were sheltering in the house, including some who had been displaced.
Israel has blamed Hamas for the civilian casualties, noting that the group is hiding in Gaza’s civilian infrastructure. However, international criticism of Israel’s behavior has been increasing due to the rising number of civilian deaths. The United States has called on Israel to take additional steps to avoid harming civilians, even as it supplies weapons and ammunition while protecting its close ally from international disapproval.
The United States has also pressured Israel to allow much more aid into Gaza. Two US senators who visited the Rafah border crossing in Egypt saw hundreds of trucks that have been waiting for weeks to enter the enclave.
Blinken began his most recent Middle East tour in Turkey, which the U.S. government believes can exert influence, particularly over Iran and its allies, to quell fears of a regional confrontation.
Those fears have been growing in recent days following incidents in the Red Sea, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran. On Saturday, the US destroyer Laboon shot down a drone launched from an area of Yemen controlled by Houthi rebels near several commercial vessels in the Red Sea, US Central Command said in a statement. He added that no casualties or damage were reported.
During meetings with the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hakan FidanBlinken sought support for nascent post-war plans in Gaza that could include monetary or in-kind contributions to reconstruction efforts and some form of participation in a proposed multinational force that could operate in or near the territory.
Blinken later traveled to Greece, Turkey’s rival and NATO ally, to meet with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who has spoken in favor of US efforts to prevent the war between Israel and Hamas from spreading to the region.
Blinken will also visit Jordan, followed by Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on Sunday and Monday. Next week, he will travel to Israel and the West Bank to finish his tour in Egypt.
The head of EU foreign policy will also visit Saudi Arabia on Sunday. He stated that his goal is to promote an Arab-European initiative to reactivate a peace process that will lead to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.