Israeli troops killed at least four militants attempting to breach the border from Lebanon on Tuesday, the army said, as tensions run high on the border between the two countries.
Since October 8, Israel has traded fire on a near-daily basis with Hezbollah and Palestinian militants in Lebanon, following a massive attack by Hamas, Hezbollah’s ally, that killed over 1,400 in Israel, mainly civilians.
The Israeli army, whose reprisal strikes on Hamas in the Gaza Strip have killed more than 3,000 people, also mostly civilians, said its forces opened fire on militants when they attempted to cross the northern border with Lebanon on Tuesday morning.
“Observation troops spotted a terrorist squad attempting to infiltrate the security fence with Lebanon and plant an explosive device,” the army said in a statement, adding “four terrorists were killed”.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah said five of its fighters had been killed “performing jihad”. It was not clear if these were the same ones who Israel had accused of trying to infiltrate the border.
Later, the army said anti-tank missiles targeted Israeli forces in two locations, with Israeli tanks and artillery retaliating against the “origins of the fire” and Hezbollah military posts.
Shots “fired from a light weapon” at several Israeli military positions near Lebanon wounded two Israeli military reservists and a civilian, it added.
Later in the day, air raid sirens sounded in the border town of Kiryat Shmona, which is nearly empty as many of the residents have fled to seek safer accommodation.
The army said “two rockets were launched from Lebanon toward Israeli territory”, with one “successfully intercepted” and the other hitting an open area.
Hezbollah said it had struck several Israeli military points, some with guided missiles, and targeted an Israeli army vehicle and a tank.
The military said it had targeted Hezbollah with overnight air strikes on southern Lebanon.
Since the start of the war triggered by Hamas’s unprecedented attack on southern Israeli communities on October 7, clashes on the Israel-Lebanon border have left at least 18 people dead on the Lebanese side.
Most of the dead have been combatants, including 10 Hezbollah fighters, but they also include a Reuters journalist and two civilians.
On the Israeli side, at least three people have been killed.
– ‘Grave mistake’ –
Lebanon’s state-owned National News Agency said areas along the western section of the border had come under “continuous” bombardment overnight.
Homes in the village of Dhayra were hit, resulting in casualties, NNA reported, without elaborating.
“The enemy (Israel) used phosphorus bombs and targeted civilians,” the news agency said.
The Israeli army has denied using the incendiary weapon white phosphorus in either Gaza or south Lebanon, after Human Rights Watch accusations last week.
It did not immediately comment on Tuesday’s NNA report.
The international community fears the opening of a second front in the conflict, with Hezbollah joining Hamas to battle Israel.
Israel has begun evacuating thousands of residents from 28 northern locations.
In remarks Tuesday morning, the Israeli army’s chief spokesman said a new front with Hezbollah would harm Lebanon.
“We’re very alert and vigilant in the north, if Hezbollah makes a grave mistake, we’ll respond with huge force,” Daniel Hagari said.
“Lebanon should ask itself if it wants to risk its country for ISIS (Islamic State group) terrorists in Gaza.”