One civilian killed in Israeli attacks on south Lebanon

Nineteen civilians have been killed by Israel since the start of the border conflict

Israeli soldiers stand by as a mobile artillery unit fires across the border with Lebanon. Reuters
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Latest: Israeli strike kills a civilian in south Lebanon in escalation of border clashes

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A civilian was shot in the head by an Israeli sniper on Wednesday in his car on the road near Kfarkela village, Hassan Cheet, mayor of the village and leader of its emergency medical services team, told The National.

“It is the first time the Israelis killed by shooting directly at people. They usually shoot near the village, around us, but not directly at us,” Mr Cheet said.

A second person in the car was unharmed, he said.

This brings the total number of civilians killed since the Lebanon-Israel border conflict erupted to 19, including three journalists, according to an AFP tally, as the border conflict between the two countries escalates.

A Hezbollah fighter was also killed when an Israeli shell hit his house in Markaba. A member of the Al Resala association initially told The National that the victim was a civilian. But Hezbollah later reported that the man, identified as Ibrahim Raslan, was one of its fighters.

Markaba was severely hit on Wednesday, as shown in videos shared on social media, showing rescue teams looking for victims among the rubbles.

Israeli strikes in Lebanon have killed more than 130 people – mostly Hezbollah fighters, as well as a Lebanese soldier. On Wednesday, Hezbollah announced the death of two more of its fighters.

The Israeli army said that four civilians and seven soldiers have been killed, although it does not typically share immediate numbers.

The new civilian casualties come amid escalating tension between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah, which has been waging a war since October 8, in support of its ally Hamas, with a stated objective of diverting the Israeli military offensive from the Gaza Strip.

Hezbollah claimed at least six attacks against Israel's military installations on Wednesday, while Israel bombed southern Lebanon all day.

The conflict has not escalated into a full-scale war, with Hezbollah showing relative restraint in its attacks, despite recent escalation from the Israeli side, both on the military and rhetorical fronts.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government is determined to prevent Hezbollah from maintaining its influence along the southern border, which it considers the only way to ensure Israel's own security.

“There are two ways to do that – either by diplomacy or by force,” Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said on Sunday.

On Monday, the funeral of a Hezbollah fighter killed along the border was interrupted by an Israeli air strike on a cemetery in southern Lebanon. This caused outrage in the country as funerals had been, until now, spared from fighting.

Videos circulating on social media on Wednesday showed the Israeli army bombing a house in the border village of Blida, a few metres away from a funeral of another fighter, Hassan Ibrahim, who had been killed the day before.

Updated: December 21, 2023, 2:20 PM