Israeli warplanes pounded Hezbollah positions in Lebanon on Saturday in the worst border clashes in 17 years, after the terrorist group unleashed a series of rockets on northern Israel.
Tensions rose over fears the fighting would spiral into a regional conflict, just a day after Hezbollah’s gun chief Hassan Nasrallah threatened to escalate the war against Israel, warning of a “real battle.”
His heavily armed group, backed by Iran, carried out simultaneous attacks on Israeli positions along the Lebanese border, while residents of southern Lebanon reported the heaviest Israeli attacks yet.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said its aircraft struck Hezbollah targets in retaliation for their attack and combined the airstrikes with artillery and tank bombardments.
Last night, the US government warned Americans to flee Lebanon “due to the unpredictable security situation.” The US embassy in Beirut warned that there would be “no guarantee of evacuations in crisis situations.”
Israeli warplanes pounded Hezbollah in Lebanon during the worst border clashes in 17 years
In Gaza, IDF forces have killed dozens of terrorists and destroyed Hamas infrastructure
It said its planes also struck Hezbollah targets in retaliation for their attack and combined the airstrikes with artillery and tank bombardments.
Black smoke rises from Aita-al-Shaab, a village in Lebanon near the border with Israel
Relatives visit the graves of slain Hezbollah fighters at the Hawra Zeinab cemetery in Beirut’s southern suburbs
On Friday, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, threatened to escalate the war against Israel, warning of a “real battle.”
Lebanese sources said Hezbollah had launched a powerful rocket not previously used in the fighting, hitting an Israeli position across the border from the villages of Ayta al-Shaab and Rmeich.
Hezbollah has exchanged sporadic fire with Israeli forces since its Palestinian ally Hamas carried out the murderous attack on Israel on October 7, killing 1,400 people and taking more than 240 hostage in Gaza. Yesterday, Hezbollah said it had attacked at least six Israeli border posts, adding that “direct hits were scored and technical equipment was destroyed.”
Lebanese sources reported that Hezbollah fired two huge Burkan (‘volcano’) rockets for the first time. The weapons, with 1,100-pound nuclear warheads, were previously used by Hezbollah and Syrian government forces to destroy the fortifications of Syrian opposition fighters.
Hezbollah said one of its fighters was killed at the border, bringing the death toll for the militant group since the fighting began to 56.
Ten civilians, including a Reuters journalist, have been killed, as have several Palestinian fighters.
Israel has said it has no interest in a conflict on its northern border. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Hezbollah that Israel will launch counterattacks of “unimaginable” proportions that will wreak “devastation” on Lebanon.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Lebanese interim Prime Minister Najib Mikati and shared his “deep” concerns about the gun battle along the southern border with Israel.
The fighting between Israel and Hamas also intensified, and not just in the terrorist stronghold of Gaza City. Mail on Sunday journalists witnessed grenade or rocket explosions in the northern part of Beit Hanoun. The scarred stump of the minaret of the Omar Ibn Abd al-Aziz Mosque was the only barely recognizable building against an apocalyptic backdrop of destroyed houses and offices.
Israeli military strikes killed several civilians at a UN shelter and hospital in the main combat zone in the Gaza Strip, as the attack on Hamas intensified.
Mail on Sunday journalists witnessed grenade or rocket explosions in the northern part of Beit Hanoun, with the city’s mosque minaret the only recognizable structure
The coffin of Hezbollah fighter Ali Rmeity, killed in southern Lebanon on Friday, is carried at his funeral
Ayman Safadi (pictured left), Jordan’s foreign minister, accused Israel at a press conference in Amman of committing “war crimes” and said this should not be above international law.
Flares from Israeli attacks light up the sky in northern Gaza on Saturday evening
The strikes took place amid growing international uproar over the rising death toll and the deepening humanitarian crisis.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi accused Israel of committing “war crimes” and said this should not be above international law. At a news conference in Amman, Mr. Safadi, along with his Egyptian and American counterparts, also said that Mr. Blinken has a leading role to play in efforts to end the war in Gaza.
Meanwhile, the Israeli army said it had surrounded Gaza City, the main target of its offensive to crush Hamas, but offered three hours to residents trapped by the fighting to flee south.
But the IDF said its forces came under mortar and anti-tank fire from Hamas during the lull in the fighting.
An IDF spokesperson said: “This incident further proves that Hamas is exploiting the people of Gaza and preventing them from acting in the interests of their own security.”
Just a few kilometers away in Israel, the border town of Sderot was virtually deserted yesterday after most of its population was resettled following the October 7 Hamas attacks. We spoke to defiant residents who remain there despite the risk of repeated rocket attacks from Gaza. The drone of outgoing Israeli artillery shells provided a constant soundtrack.
Supermarket worker Morria Cohen, 24, who still lives with her mother in Sderot, said she was not the least bit afraid of the loud noise of the shells fired into Gaza.
“They are all music to my ears,” she told the MoS.
A map showing the conflict between Israeli forces and Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon
On October 7, Morria, her mother, sister and two young nephews watched in horror as heavily armed Hamas terrorists entered their city in pickup trucks and motorcycles.
“Seven of them got out of one pickup,” she recalled, “and my mother called the kids in because they were shooting. It was a miracle we all survived.”
The family huddled in their shelter for safety for nearly 24 hours, afraid of the sound of a boot crashing through the front door.
“We had no electricity, no telephone, no water and no internet,” she said.
Morria believes her home and others were ignored by the attackers because the nearby police station was the terrorists’ main target.
They killed the officers on duty and barricaded themselves inside as Israeli forces surrounded them later in the day.
The IDF responded by simply demolishing the police station with its enormous ‘Teddy Bear’ bulldozers, killing the Hamas men inside.
Morria and her mother decided to return to the ghost town of Sderot, she said, “because it is our home and we will not let anyone drive us away.
“It will take Israel a long time to recover from the psychological and physical damage done that day, but we will recover.”
A few blocks away, 65-year-old Russian-Israeli immigrant Vladimir Kreiderman lives in a one-room bungalow next to a building destroyed by a Hamas rocket, while another struck the house four doors down in the opposite direction.
He also promised to stay.
The former Soviet soldier, who patrolled the Russian-Chinese border in the 1970s, said: ‘The police didn’t even bother to ask me to leave – they know me. We Russians are tough!’