Israeli jets hit Lebanon hard after the Gaza war began

BEIRUT – Israel on Wednesday launched its longest and fiercest attack on neighboring Lebanon since the Gaza war began, hitting several locations in the south, killing at least one Hezbollah fighter and three civilians, and further raising the threat of war between the two countries. – Standing enemies.

Israeli fighter jets began “a Extensive wave of attacks on Lebanese territory,” Israeli Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari announced the strikes while they were underway, saying details would follow.

A morning airstrike from Lebanon hit the northern Israeli city of Safed, hitting a house and an Israeli Defense Force base. An Israeli woman was killed and at least eight others were wounded, said Ilana Stein, a spokeswoman for the National Directorate of Public Diplomacy. He blamed the rocket attack on Hezbollah. “This can no longer be our reality,” he said.

Lebanon's most powerful political group, Iran-aligned paramilitary Hezbollah, did not immediately claim responsibility.

Hezbollah has joined the ranks of groups that have attacked Israel and supported Hamas and, at times, US interests in the region since October 7.

That was the day Hamas launched its bloodiest attacks in Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages in Gaza, according to Israeli officials. Israel has responded with a military campaign aimed at eliminating Hamas and other militants from the enclave. More than 28,000 people were killed there.

Since October 7, rockets have been fired almost daily over the undemarcated border between Lebanon and Israel. Around 170 Hezbollah members are estimated to have been killed, based on the group's death notices.

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Lebanon's state news agency NNA Identified the civilians killed Wednesday a Syrian mother, her 2-year-old son and her 13-year-old stepson. Their bodies were recovered from under the rubble of the destroyed house.

Tens of thousands of residents of southern Lebanon and northern Israel have fled their homes and evacuated the area in the past four months. Casualties were almost entirely to the combatants. Civilian deaths are rare.

As fighting escalates and strikes cut deep into both countries, diplomats from the United States, Britain, France and the European Union have stepped up efforts to launch a full-scale war in Lebanon. Israeli officials have repeatedly warned allies in public statements and privately that the time for diplomacy is over.

In late December, Israel warned Washington that Israel would intensify its fight with Hezbollah if a long-term border deal was not reached soon. Officials familiar with the negotiations understood at the time that the end of January was a soft deadline for the two sides to reach an agreement.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on January 5 revealed for the first time the possibility of finally demarcating the border between the two countries – something the United States, other Western governments and the United Nations have been arguing for years.

But Nasrallah has made it clear that talks will not take place before a ceasefire in Gaza.

France presented a proposal to the Lebanese government this week that stressed the importance of implementing a UN resolution calling for the withdrawal of armed personnel, property and weapons belonging to the Lebanese government or UN peacekeepers to about 25 miles from the border.

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But discussions for a border ceasefire are “as before,” according to a European diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive situation. The talks are not at an impasse, he said, “they are not” – and Hezbollah will not engage in discussions while the war in Gaza continues.

Nasrallah said on Tuesday that diplomats visiting Lebanon clearly prioritize Israel's security and parrot its demands.

“These representatives … are trying to intimidate,” he said in a televised address. A delegation warned last month that Israel would launch a war within two days.

“This party of intimidation will not work,” Nasrallah said. “Now if we stop fighting in the south, so what [will happen] To Gaza?”

But word of talks on a ceasefire in Gaza, a European diplomat said, is “not good”. He said progress in talks brokered by the governments of Qatar and Egypt had been delayed by disagreements over Israel's release of Palestinians in exchange for hostages in Gaza.

“There are names [the Israelis] including Marwan Barghouti, don't want to be considered,” the diplomat said, referring to the Fatah-linked paramilitary chief who is serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison for killing five people.

Even in prison, Barghouti, 64, remains one of the most popular of Palestinian political leaders, respected and admired throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Members of the international community have tried to convince Israel that Barghouti is the only alternative to Hamas, the European ambassador said, because he is seen as “taking over the current class as part of a renewed class in Palestine.”

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As the war in Gaza winds down, Wednesday's attacks show that attention is turning to Lebanon. It is unclear whether Israel will expand the offensive beyond Hezbollah near the border to other Lebanese targets in the north. Low-flying jets over Beirut on Wednesday fueled fears of an impending attack.

Israeli Minister Benny Gantz threatened such an expansion on Wednesday. “We must be clear: not only Hezbollah is responsible for the firing from Lebanon, but also the Lebanese government and the Lebanese government allowing the firing from its territory.”

“There is no target or military infrastructure in the northern part of the country that is not in our sight,” he said.

Lior Soroka and Mohamed El Chamma and Susan Haidamous in Tel Aviv contributed to this report.

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