February 28, 2024

By Bassem Mroue, Samy Magdy and Najib Jobain | Related Press

BEIRUT — Israel and Lebanon-based Hezbollah traded hearth Saturday in one of many heaviest days of cross-border preventing in latest weeks, a day after the militia’s chief urged retaliation for the focused killing, presumably by Israel, of a prime Hamas chief in Lebanon’s capital.

Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah stated that if his group didn’t strike again for the killing Tuesday of Saleh Arouri, Hamas’ deputy political chief, all of Lebanon could be susceptible to Israeli assaults.

With the danger of regional escalation, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken kicked off an pressing Center East diplomatic tour, his fourth because the Israel-Hamas battle erupted three months in the past.

“It’s completely essential to keep away from Lebanon being dragged right into a regional battle,” the European Union’s overseas coverage chief, Josep Borrell, stated in Beirut throughout his personal Center East tour.

Hezbollah stated it launched 62 rockets towards an Israeli air surveillance base on Mount Meron and scored direct hits in its “preliminary response” to Arouri’s killing. It stated rockets additionally struck two military posts close to the border. The Israeli navy stated about 40 rockets have been fired towards Meron and {that a} base was focused. The military’s chief spokesperson, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, stated the rockets precipitated no casualties in Israel.

Hagari stated the navy struck the Hezbollah squads that fired the rockets and likewise attacked Hezbollah navy websites. Hezbollah stated six of its fighters have been killed Saturday, elevating the toll because the preventing started to 150.

Israeli airstrikes on southern Lebanon hit the outskirts of Kouthariyeh al-Siyad, a village about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the border, Lebanon’s state-run Nationwide Information Company stated, including that there have been casualties. Such strikes deeper inside Lebanon have been uncommon because the border preventing began almost three months in the past. NNA additionally stated Israeli forces shelled border areas together with the city of Khiam.

Individually, the armed wing of the Islamic Group in Lebanon, the nation’s department of the Muslim Brotherhood and a detailed ally of Hamas, stated it fired two volleys of rockets towards the Israeli metropolis of Kiryat Shmona on Friday night time. Two of the group’s members have been killed within the strike that killed Arouri.

The battle in Gaza was triggered by a lethal Hamas assault on southern Israel through which militants killed about 1,200 folks, largely civilians, and took roughly 250 hostages.

In latest weeks, Israel has been scaling again its navy assault in northern Gaza and urgent its offensive within the territory’s south, the place most of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians are being squeezed into smaller areas in a humanitarian catastrophe whereas being pounded by Israeli airstrikes.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a video assertion reiterated that “the battle should not be stopped” till the goals of eliminating Hamas, getting Israel’s hostages returned and making certain that Gaza gained’t be a risk to Israel are met.

On Saturday, the Well being Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza stated 122 Palestinians had been killed over the previous 24 hours, bringing the overall because the begin of the battle to 22,722. The depend doesn’t differentiate between combatants and civilians. The ministry has stated two-thirds of these killed have been girls or youngsters. The general wounded rose to 58,166, the ministry stated.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital within the central metropolis of Deir al-Balah obtained at the least 46 our bodies in a single day, in accordance with hospital information seen by The Related Press. Many have been males who apparently had been shot. The lifeless additionally included 5 members of a household who have been killed in an airstrike.

The newest Israeli-dropped leaflets urged Palestinians in some areas close to the hospital to evacuate, citing “harmful preventing.”

Within the southern Gaza metropolis of Khan Younis, the main focus of Israel’s floor offensive, the European Hospital obtained the our bodies of 18 folks killed in an in a single day airstrike on a home, stated Saleh al-Hamms, head of the hospital’s nursing division. Citing witnesses, he stated greater than three dozen folks had been sheltering in the home, together with some who had been displaced.

Israel has held Hamas answerable for civilian casualties, saying the group embeds itself inside Gaza’s civilian infrastructure. Nonetheless, worldwide criticism of Israel’s conduct has grown due to the rising civilian dying toll. America has urged Israel to do extra to forestall hurt to civilians, even because it sends weapons and munitions whereas shielding its shut ally towards worldwide censure.

The U.S. additionally has pressed Israel to let rather more assist into Gaza. Two U.S. senators who visited Egypt’s Rafah border crossing described strains of a whole lot of vehicles which were ready for weeks to enter.

Blinken started his newest Mideast journey in Turkey, which the Biden administration believes can exert affect, notably on Iran and its proxies, to tamp down fears of a regional conflagration.

These fears have spiked in latest days with incidents within the Crimson Sea, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran. On Saturday, a drone launched from an space of Yemen managed by the Houthi militant group was shot down by the U.S. destroyer Laboon close to a number of industrial vessels within the Crimson Sea, the U.S. Central Command stated in a press release, including there have been no casualties or injury reported.

In talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Overseas Minister Hakan Fidan, Blinken sought help for nascent plans for post-war Gaza that might embody financial or in-kind contributions to reconstruction efforts and a few type of participation in a proposed multinational drive that might function in or adjoining to the territory.

Blinken then traveled to Turkish rival and fellow NATO ally Greece to satisfy Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who has been supportive of U.S. efforts to forestall the Israel-Hamas battle from spreading.