Hezbollah and Israel exchange fire as UN urges halt to violence

Hezbollah said on Tuesday it targeted the "Meron air control base... with a large salvo of rockets from several launchers", in response to the Baalbek strikes.
This picture taken from an Israeli position along the border with southern Lebanon shows rockets fired from Lebanon into Israel on February 26, 2024.
This picture taken from an Israeli position along the border with southern Lebanon shows rockets fired from Lebanon into Israel on February 26, 2024.

BEIRUT, LEBANON: Hezbollah and Israel exchanged fire Tuesday following deadly Israeli strikes on east Lebanon the day before, while a UN official called for an end to the "dangerous cycle of violence".

Lebanon's Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, has exchanged near-daily fire with the Israeli army since war erupted between Israel and the Gaza-based Palestinian militant group on October 7.

Israeli raids near east Lebanon's Baalbek on Monday were the first in the area since hostilities began, and hit far beyond the usual border regions.

The Israeli army said the strikes targeted Hezbollah air defences after the group downed an Israeli drone.

Hezbollah said on Tuesday it targeted the "Meron air control base... with a large salvo of rockets from several launchers", in response to the Baalbek strikes.

Israeli military spokesman Avichay Adraee said the rockets caused no casualties or damage to the base, while Israeli fighter jets raided and destroyed "a military site" and "military infrastructure" belonging to Hezbollah in retaliation.

One of the strikes targeted Baisariyeh, almost 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the nearest Israeli boundary.

The UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Joanna Wronecka, in a statement called for "an immediate halt to this dangerous cycle of violence and return to a cessation of hostilities".

The US State Department's spokesman Mathew Miller said his country did "not want to see either side escalate the conflict" and that Israel had assured the United States it wanted to follow "a diplomatic path".

Later on Tuesday, Hezbollah said it had targeted the same base again, as well as several other Israeli positions, one for the first time since hostilities started.

The Israeli army said that "approximately 20 launches were identified crossing from Lebanon... some of which were successfully intercepted".

It added that an anti-tank missile had been fired towards Meron without causing harm. The army was "currently striking Hezbollah terror targets in Lebanon", it said.

Two Hezbollah fighters were killed in the east Lebanon strikes on Monday. Later that day, the Iran-backed group fired 60 rockets at an Israeli base in the annexed Golan Heights.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, warned of a "concerning shift in the exchanges of fire" in recent days and "an expansion and intensification of strikes".

"Recent events have the potential to put at risk a political solution to this conflict," the force said in a statement, urging "all parties involved to halt hostilities... and leave space to a political and diplomatic solution".

Cross-border exchanges since October have killed at least 284 people 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.

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