Hezbollah fires dozens of rockets at Israel after assassination in Deir Kifa


Hezbollah said it fired dozens of rockets into northern Israel Thursday in retaliation for a deadly strike in south Lebanon, a day after a fiery speech from the group's leader.

Israel and Hezbollah, a powerful Lebanese movement allied with Hamas, have traded near-daily cross-border fire since the Palestinian militant group's October 7 attack on Israel which triggered war in the Gaza Strip.

Fears of a regional war rose after Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned Wednesday "no place" in Israel would be spared in case of all-out war against his group, and threatened the nearby island nation of Cyprus if it opened its airports to Israel.

Hezbollah on Thursday said that "in response to the assassination that the Israeli enemy carried out in the village of Deir Kifa," fighters targeted an Israeli barracks in Zar’it "with dozens of Katyusha rockets."

Lebanon's official National News Agency had reported one dead after an "enemy drone" struck a vehicle in south Lebanon's Deir Kifa area.

Hezbollah announced that one of its fighters had been killed. A source close to the group, requesting anonymity, told AFP he was killed in the Deir Kifa strike.

The Israeli military said an air strike "eliminated" a Hezbollah operative in the Deir Kifa area, saying he was "responsible for planning and carrying out terror attacks against Israel and commanding Hezbollah ground forces" in south Lebanon's Jwaya area.

Media reports said an Israeli drone also fired a missile on another car in the southern town of Houmine al-Fawqa, reportedly killing one person, identified by some reports as the son of a Hezbollah commander.

Elsewhere, Israeli fighter jets struck "a Hezbollah surface-to-air missile launcher that posed a threat to aircraft operating over Lebanon," the army statement added.

Lebanon’s National News Agency said that airstrike targeted the Bir Kallab area in Iqlim al-Tuffah's heights, deep in south Lebanon, as artillery shelling hit Khiam, Kfarkela and al-Ezziyeh.

The exchanges between the foes, which last went to war in 2006, have escalated in recent weeks, and the Israeli military said Tuesday that "operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon were approved and validated."

The cross-border violence has killed at least 479 people in Lebanon, most of them fighters but also including 93 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

Israeli authorities say at least 15 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed in the country's north.

Israel has ramped up in past weeks its targeting of Hezbollah fighters and allied militants in cars and on motorbikes in south Lebanon, while Hezbollah used more advanced weaponry, including drones capable of firing missiles, explosive drones and a small type of guided missile known as Almas, or Diamond, that was used to attack a base controlling a surveillance balloon.

The group has also recently published a more than nine-minute video showing drone footage over northern Israel, including parts of the city and port of Haifa.

Fears that Israel might launch a full-blown war in Lebanon have spiked, with the Israeli military on Tuesday announcing that "operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon were approved and validated".

On Wednesday, Israel said its warplanes had struck Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon overnight, while reporting a drone had infiltrated near the border town of Metula and targeted troops in an attack claimed by Hezbollah.

Hezbollah, meanwhile, announced the death of four of its fighters on Wednesday.

The Israeli army's announcement that its plans for an offensive in Lebanon had been approved, along with a warning from Foreign Minister Israel Katz of Hezbollah's destruction in a "total war", came as U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein visited the region to push for de-escalation.

Former Israeli security officials were split on the significance of the approval, with one telling AFP there would be an operation in Lebanon "within a few weeks" while another said the government was "more interested in a ceasefire."

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