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Fierce clashes broke out along the Lebanon-Israel border on Thursday after a day of relative calm between Israel and the armed Hezbollah group.
Two Hezbollah fighters were killed “on the road to Jerusalem”, the Iran-backed group said. It did not specify the exact location, but the Israeli army said it had struck a fighter “who was operating in Lebanese territory”, in a statement.
Hezbollah said it fired missiles at eight positions across the border – including an infantry force, a barracks and other military posts – throughout the day, while Israel said it retaliated with artillery.
The Israeli army said it “struck a terror cell” in Lebanon that had tried to launch anti-tank missiles across the border, and said it was retaliating with artillery at other targets.
Israel claimed no casualties on its side.
A Lebanese security source told Reuters the Israeli bombardment hit at least a dozen villages along Lebanon's southern border and said it was one of the most violent days since Hezbollah began waging a war of attrition against Israel on October 8.
The conflict has gradually intensified but fallen short of full-scale war. Despite frequent provocations by both, Hezbollah and Israel have maintained a flow of exchanges along the border as Hezbollah seeks to divert Israel from its assault on the Gaza strip.
The latest from the Israel-Gaza war – in pictures
Most residents have evacuated border towns on both sides, but civilian deaths are not uncommon. At least 10 civilians have been killed in Lebanon, while the Israeli army acknowledges at least three civilians killed on its side.
It is the deadliest violence at the border since Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006. Thousands of people on both sides of the conflict have been displaced from their homes.
It also marks “the largest displacement of Jews inside Israel since its creation”, according to Karim Mufti, a political researcher and professor of international affairs at Sciences Po Paris.