Israel strikes Baalbek, killing two, after Hezbollah downs drone

  • W460
  • W460

Israeli strikes near the Hezbollah-dominated city of Baalbek killed two group members Monday, two security sources told AFP, in the first strikes on Lebanon's east since clashes began after the Gaza war.

"Two Hezbollah members were killed in the Israeli strikes near Baalbek," a security official told AFP, with another security source also confirming the toll.

Israeli airstrikes targeted Monday Baalbek's outskirts after Hezbollah shot down an Israeli unmanned drone in southern Lebanon, nearly five months into near-daily cross-border clashes sparked by the Gaza war.

Lebanese security officials said Israel’s air force carried out three airstrikes on the outskirts of the village of Bouday, near Baalbek, targeting a convoy of trucks. Bouday is a Hezbollah stronghold in the Bekaa valley bordering Syria.

A Hezbollah official confirmed that three strikes hit near Baalbek. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters. He said the strikes killed at least two people and that one hit a warehouse for food products that's part of Hezbollah's Sajjad Project that sells to people in its stronghold at prices lower than on the market.

A second Israeli strike hit "a building housing a Hezbollah civilian institution" in a Baalbek suburb, a security source told AFP, requesting anonymity because they are not allowed to speak to the press.

The strikes are among the deepest into Lebanon and the first strikes in east Lebanon since the Israel-Hamas war began more than four months ago. They come a day after Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vowed to step up attacks on Lebanon’s Hezbollah even if a cease-fire is reached with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Because of its location deep inside Lebanon, the strike on Baalbek is the most significant one since the early January airstrike on Beirut's southern suburb that killed top Hamas official Saleh Arouri.

The Israeli army said it struck "Hezbollah targets deep in Lebanon" after it confirmed one of its drones had been downed in Lebanon.

It claimed the sites in Baalbek are used by Hezbollah for its aerial defense system, adding that the strikes came "in response to the launch of a surface-to-air missile" that downed the drone.

A missile "was fired toward an Israeli Air Force UAV operating in Lebanon.... A short while after, an additional missile launch toward the UAV was identified and the UAV fell inside Lebanese territory," Israel's army said.

Hezbollah had earlier said in a statement that its air defense unit had shot down "a large Israeli Hermes 450 drone with a surface-to-air missile" in the Iqlim al-Tuffah region.

The Hermes 450 is a medium size unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) supplying real time intelligence data to Israeli forces.

Hezbollah said its "fighters' eyes will remain vigilant and will keep shooting down enemy aircraft and preventing them from achieving their aggressive goals".

Another missile fired by Hezbollah toward the drone was intercepted by Israel, and landed near a synagogue in a town close to Nazareth in northern Israel. There were no injuries or damage.

Since October 8, Hezbollah and its arch-foe Israel have been exchanging fire but strikes have been largely contained to the border area -- although Israel has struck elsewhere in Lebanon, including in Beirut's southern suburb.

Since October, at least 280 people have been killed on the Lebanese side, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also including 44 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to the Israeli army.

The clashes have displaced tens of thousands of civilians on both sides of the border.

Comments 1
Missing un520 26 February 2024, 19:23

That is an excellent analizys of the situation, Maseme. When will we get the Nasrallah-moment like we did in 2006? «If only I had known…»