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Israel strikes deeper into Lebanon as Hezbollah downs drone

The violence marked an escalation of hostilities that have been fought in parallel to the war in Gaza, heightening the risks of further escalation between heavily armed adversaries that last went to war in 2006.
Last Updated : 26 February 2024, 11:06 IST
Last Updated : 26 February 2024, 11:06 IST

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Beirut: Israel carried out airstrikes in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley on Monday, killing at least two Hezbollah members in its deepest attack yet into Lebanese territory since hostilities erupted with the Iran-backed group last October, sources in Lebanon said.

The Israeli military said its warplanes had struck Hezbollah air defenses in the Bekaa Valley in response to the downing of an Israeli drone by the group earlier in the day. There was no immediate comment from Hezbollah, which earlier said its fighters had shot down the drone using a surface-to-air missile.

The violence marked an escalation of hostilities that have been fought in parallel to the war in Gaza, heightening the risks of further escalation between heavily armed adversaries that last went to war in 2006.

The Israeli strikes hit an area some 18 km (11 miles) from the city of Baalbek, which is known for its ancient ruins - a UNESCO World Heritage site. The region near the Syrian border is a political stronghold of the Shi'ite Islamist group Hezbollah.

The sources said Israel had carried out simultaneous strikes in the area. A Lebanese security source and a source familiar with the matter said two Hezbollah members had been killed.

Lebanese television station Al-Jadeed broadcast images of plumes of smoke rising from the area.

The Israeli military said it would continue operations to defend Israel from Hezbollah, including within Lebanese air space.

Hezbollah has been waging a campaign of attacks against Israel since the Oct. 7 raid from the Gaza Strip by its Palestinian ally Hamas, in what it describes as an effort to support Palestinians under Israeli fire in Gaza.

The hostilities have largely played out in areas near the Lebanese-Israeli border, but last week widened when Israel struck an area just south of the coastal city of Sidon.

Hezbollah said earlier on Monday it had shot down an Israeli Hermes 450 drone over Lebanese territory using a surface-to-air missile, the second time it has announced a downing of this type of unmanned aerial vehicle.

The Israeli military said two missile launches had targeted an Israeli Air Force UAV operating over Lebanon. The first, it said, was intercepted by Israel's "David's Sling" Aerial Defense System but the drone "fell inside Lebanese territory" after a second launch.

Israeli strikes since October have killed some 50 civilians in Lebanon, in addition to some 200 Hezbollah fighters.

Attacks from Lebanon into Israel have killed a dozen Israeli soldiers troops and five civilians.

The violence has uprooted tens of thousands of people on both sides of the border.

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Published 26 February 2024, 11:06 IST

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