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Fresh Hezbollah-Israel escalation kills 8, raising fears of Lebanon open front

Wednesday’s escalation renewed fears that Lebanon could be dragged into a wider war with Israel as Gaza negotiations collapse.
RABIH DAHER/AFP via Getty Images

BEIRUT — Lebanon’s militant group Hezbollah  fired a fresh salvo of rockets toward northern Israel on Wednesday after a deadly round of violence between the two parties overnight that left seven Lebanese and one Israeli killed. 

Hezbollah said in a statement it launched dozens of rockets at the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona and a nearby army base in response to a deadly airstrike in the southern Lebanese village of Habbariyeh, around five kilometers (three miles) from the border with Israel, the night before.

The Times of Israel cited the Israeli army as saying that around 30 rockets were fired at Kiryat Shmona early on Wednesday. Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency service told local media that a 25-year-old man, identified as Zaher Bashara, was killed when one of the rockets struck an industrial building.

Late on Tuesday, Israeli fighter jets struck an emergency center in Habbariyeh, killing at least seven paramedics and injuring four others, in one of the deadliest single attacks since violence erupted along the border in October.

The Lebanese Succour Association, a nonprofit organization providing relief during times of crises and emergencies, said the strikes hit an office of the Islamic Emergency and Relief Corps, which it supervises. In a press statement, the association condemned the attack as a “heinous crime” and a “flagrant violation against humanitarian work.”

It confirmed the deaths of seven emergency workers.

The Israeli military confirmed the strikes, saying in a post on X that it hit a military building belonging to al-Jamaa al-Islamiya, killing a “significant terrorist” belonging to the group along with several other operatives. The army added that the target had promoted attacks against Israel in the past.

Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya’s media office denied any affiliation with the center. In a Wednesday statement carried by the official Lebanese National News Agency, the group said the center belongs to the Lebanese Succour Association, stressing that Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya “has no relation whatsoever to it.”

Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya is a Lebanese Sunni group allied with Hamas. The group’s head, Sheikh Mohammed Takkoush, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya has joined the fight alongside Hezbollah against Israel in support of the Palestinians.

Hezbollah began firing rockets toward Israeli territory one day after Hamas’ cross-border assault on southern Israel Oct. 7, in solidarity with the Palestinian movement. Since then, Hezollah and the Israeli army have been trading fire in the worst escalation since the two parties last fought a war in July 2006.

The fighting has escalated in recent weeks, with Israel striking deeper inside Lebanese territory, sparking fears of an all-out war.

On Tuesday, at least three people were killed in separate Israeli airstrikes near the northeast Lebanese towns of Ras Baalbek and Hermel, more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the border with Israel.

Hezbollah confirmed in a statement the death of three of its fighters in the strikes.

The Israeli army said it targeted a military site used by Hezbollah’s aerial unit in the town of Zboud near Hermel. Hezbollah hit back, saying it fired 50 Katyusha rockets at a military base in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.  

The cross-border violence has left at least 331 people dead in Lebanon. At least 200 of them are Hezbollah fighters, according to a count by the local L’Orient Today news outlet. On the Israeli side, 18 people have been killed, of whom 11 were soldiers, according to the Israeli army.

The escalating hostilities coincided on Tuesday with a fresh round of US sanctions against individuals and entities accused of helping fund Hezbollah, Yemen's Houthis and Iran's Quds Force.

The Treasury Department said in a press release that the sanctions targeted six entities, one individual and two tankers based or registered in Liberia, India, Vietnam, Lebanon and Kuwait “that have engaged in facilitating commodity shipments and financial transactions” for the three groups.

The United States designates Hezbollah as a terror organization.

Iran’s proxies in the region have launched repeated attacks against US and Israeli targets since the Israel-Hamas war erupted.