Jerusalem/Gaza/Beirut, Oct 17 (IANS) Israel began evacuating residents in the north amid escalating conflict with Lebanon’s Hezbollah military group in the border area.
The Israeli-Lebanese border has seen an escalation of tensions since last week as Hezbollah fired tens of rockets at Israeli military sites on October 8 in support of an onslaught by the Gaza-ruling Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) on Israel on October 7.
Hezbollah on Monday announced that it targeted five Israeli sites with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns and inflicted Israeli injuries, to which Israel responded by firing seven missiles toward Hezbollah positions in the border town of Rmeish and shelling several Lebanese areas, Xinhua news agency reported.
In a statement, the Israeli Defense Ministry told residents of 28 towns living within 2 km of the Israeli-Lebanese border to evacuate, adding that the residents would stay in guesthouses subsidised by the state.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran and its backed Hezbollah not to launch a war against Israel.
“We have a message for Iran and Hezbollah: Do not test us in the north. Do not repeat your previous mistake because the price you need to pay will be much higher,” Netanyahu said at the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament.
Meanwhile, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Monday warned that opening a war front in southern Lebanon is “of no one’s interest”.
On Monday, Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called on Arab and Islamic countries to cancel or freeze their normalisation agreements with Israel in response to its continuous bombing in Gaza.
He made the remarks at an online emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to discuss the repercussions of the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.
Berri also warned against the plan to “move Palestinian people from the Gaza Strip to the Sinai Peninsula,” saying that “if this plan is implemented, it will not only eliminate the Palestinians but also cause the fall of Arab”.
With no sign of abating in sight in the conflict with Israel, militants in Gaza continued to fire rockets at southern Israel throughout Monday. On Monday afternoon, sirens sounded in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The rocket attack disrupted the opening of the winter session of the Knesset. Broadcast video showed lawmakers and other attendees rushing to shelters.
In Holon, south of Tel Aviv, a 56-year-old woman was moderately injured by shrapnel from the rockets, according to Israel’s Magen David Adom rescue service.
The Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said in a statement that it fired “a barrage of rockets” on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in response to Israel’s “targeting of civilians”.
In heavy Israeli attacks on Gaza, at least 2,808 individuals have been killed and more than 10,850 injured, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.
The slain Palestinians include at least 11 journalists, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate said on Monday, adding that more than 20 others were injured as 50 media organisations in Gaza were targetted by Israeli attacks.
Among the dead in Gaza were also several senior Hamas members, including the regional head of Hamas’ intelligence in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, the Israeli military said in a statement.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken headed back to Israel after a regional tour, reaffirming in remarks to the media that Israel will “always have the support of the US”.
In joint statements alongside Blinken, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned that “a long war” between Israel and Hamas lies ahead.
So far, some 1,300 have been killed in Israel by the Hamas-led attacks. The Israeli police said about 615 of the fatalities have been identified.
In addition, the Israeli military on Monday updated in a statement that at least 199 hostages were held in Gaza, while Hamas claimed that there are 200 to 250 captives in Gaza.