Fire from Lebanon kills two Israeli civilians as war between Israel and Hamas rages on for 100 days

JERUSALEM –

Two civilians were killed in northern Israel on Sunday after an anti-tank missile fired from Lebanon hit their home in a town near the border, raising fresh concerns that a second conflict could break out amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

The deadly attack came on the 100th day of a conflict between Israel and Hamas that has killed nearly 24,000 Palestinians, devastated vast areas of Gaza, driven about 85 percent of its 2.3 million residents from their homes and pushed a quarter of the population to famine. .

The war was triggered by the October 7 Hamas surprise attack on southern Israel, in which militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took about 250 hostages, about half of whom are still in captivity.

Tensions have soared across the region, with Israel exchanging fire almost daily with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Iranian-backed militias attacking US targets in Syria and Iraq, and Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacking international shipping, sparking a wave of US airstrikes last week.

Sunday’s missile attack came a day after the Israeli military said it killed three militants who had crossed into Israel from Lebanon and attempted to carry out an attack. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was giving a speech on Sunday.

The unprecedented level of death and destruction in Gaza has led South Africa to bring genocide charges against Israel to the International Court of Justice. Israel strongly denies the allegations and has vowed to press ahead with its offensive even if the court in The Hague issues a provisional order for it to stop.

“No one will stop us, not The Hague, not the Axis of Evil, not anyone else,” Netanyahu said Saturday night, referring to Iran and its allied militias.

Israel has also vowed to return the more than 100 hostages still held in Gaza as its leaders face growing protests from their families, including a 24-hour demonstration in Tel Aviv that began Saturday night and attracted tens of thousands. of sympathizers.

Israeli forces only managed to rescue one hostage, while more than 100 were freed during a week-long ceasefire in November in exchange for 240 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. Hamas says no more hostages will be released until Israel ends its offensive.

FEARS OF A SECOND FRONT

Israel and Hezbollah have been careful not to let their back-and-forth clashes lead to a full-blown war on a second front.

But they have come close on several occasions, most recently after an airstrike that killed a senior Hamas official in Beirut on January 2. Both Hamas and Hezbollah have blamed Israel for the attack. The latest attacks on Israel, including the deaths of two civilians on Sunday, increased the likelihood of further Israeli retaliation.

The missile hit a house in the northern Israeli town of Yuval, killing a man in his 40s and his mother, in her 70s, Israeli rescuers said.

Although Yuval is one of more than 40 villages along the northern border evacuated by the government in October, Israeli media reported that the family remained in the area because they work in agriculture.

More than 115,000 Israelis have been evacuated from northern Israel due to current tensions. In Israel, 12 soldiers and seven civilians were killed by rocket fire from Lebanon and more than 170 were injured. Hezbollah has reported that at least 150 fighters and 20 civilians have been killed in the almost daily exchanges of fire.

The deadly attack came hours after the military said it killed three militants who entered a disputed Israeli-controlled enclave in the Golan Heights.

A group called the Islamic Glory Brigades claimed responsibility for the infiltration. The Associated Press could not independently verify the statement, and Hezbollah, the Lebanese branches of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad said the group was not affiliated with them.

Since October, according to Israel, more than 2,000 rockets and 350 drones have been launched from Lebanon.

US PROTECTS ISRAEL FROM CALLS FOR A TRUCE

Israel has also been under increasing international pressure to end the war in Gaza, but has so far been protected by US diplomatic and military support. Israel maintains that any ceasefire would hand victory to Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007 and is bent on destroying Israel.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Washington, London, Paris, Rome, Milan and Dublin on Saturday to demand an end to the war. Protesters converging on the White House held signs criticizing President Joe Biden’s unwavering support for Israel.

In recent weeks, Israel has reduced its operations in northern Gaza, the initial target of the offensive, where weeks of airstrikes and ground operations left entire neighborhoods in ruins. Netanyahu said there are no immediate plans to allow hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to return to their homes there, after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised the issue during a visit to the region last week.

Meanwhile, Israel has launched major operations against the southern city of Khan Younis and built refugee camps in central Gaza. These camps date back to the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled and never allowed to return.

“No one can move,” said Rami Abu Matouq, who lives in the Maghzai camp. “Fighter jets, snipers and gunfire are everywhere.” He said several buildings have been hit by airstrikes and shelling in the past two days, but no one can reach them to try to rescue survivors.

ISRAEL WATCHES EXPAND OFFENSE

Netanyahu said Israel would eventually need to move further south and take control of Gaza’s border with Egypt, which Israeli officials say is still used by Hamas to smuggle weapons.

Egypt, which in recent years has fortified the border, demolished tunnels and established a buffer zone, insists it has full control of the border and says any such operation should be considered in light of agreements reached with Israel and USA.

The area in and around the border town of Rafah is also packed with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled other parts of Gaza and are crowded into overflowing shelters and tent camps run by the U.N.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said on Sunday that hospitals had received 125 bodies in the past 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 23,968. The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants, but says that around two-thirds of those killed are women and minors. It says more than 60,000 people have been injured.

According to the UN humanitarian office, less than half of the territory’s 36 hospitals remain partially operational. It says widespread fighting and Israeli restrictions, which have increased since the beginning of the year, have made it increasingly difficult to deliver desperately needed food, water and other aid. US pressure on Israel to facilitate deliveries has had little success.

Israel says Hamas is responsible for the large number of civilian casualties, claiming its fighters use civilian buildings and launch attacks from densely populated urban areas. The military says 188 soldiers have been killed and 1,099 wounded since the start of the ground offensive.

——


Magdy reported from Cairo, Chehayeb reported from Beirut. Associated Press writer Abby Sewell in Beirut contributed to this report.

Leave a Comment