Israel, Hezbollah trade strikes as diplomats call for calm

BEIRUT: Israel has continued its strikes against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon amid mounting fears of a war on the border.

Hezbollah also struck back against targets in Israel despite warnings from Israeli officials.

Reports in local Lebanese and Israeli media say that Israel’s provocative targeting of Hezbollah could lure the group into all-out conflict.

Since Oct. 8, when Hezbollah fired dozens of rockets toward Israel in support of the Hamas-led attack, the group has continued to carry out low-level strikes on Israel, alarming the Lebanese government.

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati has attempted to ease tensions. In talks with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, he said: “Lebanon respects all international resolutions, starting with the armistice agreement, to achieve permanent stability in southern Lebanon.”

Mikati urged support for the Lebanese army “to enable it to carry out its duties.”

He added: “The time has come to find a permanent and just solution to the Palestinian cause, starting with a ceasefire and launching an international path for a final and comprehensive solution based on the two-state principle.”

Meanwhile, Israel ramped up efforts on its northern border, using incendiary material to ignite forest fires in Lebanon.

The Lebanese Army Command said in a statement: “A joint army and UNIFIL patrol in the outskirts of the border town of Labbouneh found three hoses used to pump incendiary materials that were placed by the Israeli enemy, from inside the occupied Palestinian territories to Lebanese territory. A specialized army unit worked to dismantle them in the presence of UNIFIL members.

“During this time, army and UNIFIL members were exposed to enemy fire, but no casualties were reported.”

The statement added: “Another joint patrol found in the outskirts of the town of Aita Al-Shaab two similar hoses that were extended from the Israeli enemy’s Tal Al-Raheb military center, and a specialized army unit dismantled them.”

The Lebanese army is monitoring the situation on the southern border with the help of UNIFIL.

The Israeli army targeted a house in Kfar Shuba using a drone, killing a Hezbollah member, Nabegh Ahmed Al-Qadiri, from Kafr Shuba, and resulting in injury to the house’s owner, Ibrahim Qasab.

Al-Qadiri’s home was destroyed by Israeli artillery bombardment, so he had sought refuge in Qasab’s house.

The Israeli army announced strikes on “targets in Lebanon, including military infrastructure in Kafr Shuba.”

The Israeli bombardment of Lebanese border villages and towns from Naqoura to Kafr Shuba continued. With the assistance of UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army, the Lebanese Red Cross successfully retrieved a partially decomposed body from Metulla.

Israeli news outlets reported on Wednesday that “Hezbollah launched a powerful missile, which landed in an undisclosed settlement, resulting in significant destruction to nearby homes within a hundred-meter range.”

The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that “the great destruction inflicted by Hezbollah on the northern settlements can be described as unprecedented.”

Baerbock urged the need to implement Resolution 1701 in southern Lebanon, during her meetings with Lebanese officials in Beirut on Wednesday.

Among the provisions of the resolution are the cessation of hostilities and the absence of armed Hezbollah personnel within UNIFIL’s area of operations.

The German stance was expressed a day before by US presidential adviser Amos Hochstein, who will arrive in Beirut on Thursday for a brief visit. He will meet Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, army chief Gen. Joseph Aoun and the head of General Security, Brig. Gen. Elias Al-Baysari.

The visit is part of international efforts to prevent military escalation on the border, with hostilities already leading to mass evacuations from hundreds of settlements in northern Israel.

Deputy Parliament Speaker Elias Bou Saab, who had met Hochstein in Rome, said: “A war will not bring Israeli settlers back to their northern settlements, but rather push them further away and prolong the issue for a year.”

He added: “The solution is not in war but in diplomatic efforts.”

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