Hezbollah funeral interrupted by air strike as French Foreign Minister arrives in Beirut

Israel has repeatedly threatened to launch a full-scale war against Hezbollah in Lebanon

Hezbollah members stand next to coffins during a funeral in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. EPA
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The funeral of a Hezbollah fighter, killed in fighting along the Israel-Lebanon border, was interrupted by an Israeli air strike on a cemetery compound in the southern Lebanese town of Ayta Al Shabab on Monday.

The incident occurred shortly before the arrival of France’s Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna to Beirut, part of a shuttle diplomacy initiative by France, the US and other western powers to restore calm along the frontier.

A video circulating on social media showed the funeral of the Hezbollah fighter, Hassan Srour, taking place in a courtyard when a nearby building was bombarded, scattering mourners. No injuries were reported.

The funeral proceeded normally following the incident, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported.

The Israeli military said in a statement that its fighter jets had “struck a series of Hezbollah terror targets, including terrorist infrastructure, a launch post and a military site”. It was unknown whether the statement was referring to the funeral incident.

Mr Srour was one of three militants killed on Sunday evening, bringing the total number of Hezbollah deaths to 111 since October 8, when hostilities between the Lebanese group and Israel erupted.

On the Israeli side, at least seven soldiers have been killed in the fighting.

Deadly clashes continued into the 72nd day Monday, with a series of Israeli strikes on various areas of south Lebanon occurring in close succession, particularly in the Ayta Al Shabab and Naqoura areas.

Rocket sirens sounded in several areas of northern Israel Monday afternoon, with the Israeli military saying it had “struck the sources of the launches”.

In a statement, Hezbollah said it had damaged two Iron Dome platforms near the town of Kabri with artillery.


France's Ms Colonna landed in Beirut on Monday as part of France’s diplomatic effort to mediate between Israeli and Lebanese officials as the frontier conflict continues.

Paris is looking to hammer out an arrangement with its partners that ensures all sides keep to the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

A key point of that resolution is that no armed forces, other than the Lebanese military and the UN's peacekeeping mission Unifil, should be present between Lebanon's Litani River and the border with Israel.

“Neither side is implementing it. Both sides accepted it,” Ms Colonna said. “We need to engage a form of de-escalation. We can't continue like this without a serious risk of escalation.”

The resolution was agreed to in 2006 in a bid to end a deadly, month-long war between Hezbollah and Israel.

Ahead of his meeting with the French foreign ministry, Unifil commander Maj Gen Aroldo Lazaro called the situation on the border “tense” and “dangerous”.

Since October 8, Hezbollah has waged a war of attrition with Israel as it seeks to support its ally Hamas by diverting Israel from its invasion of the Gaza Strip.

The group has remained restrained to avoid tipping the conflict into a full-scale war and has mostly focused on using deterrence tactics and attacking military installations along the border.

But Israel is bent on preventing the Iran-backed militia from exerting influence on the outcome of the conflict and seeks to re-establish security along its northern frontier.

Despite Hezbollah’s relative restraint, Israel has upped the ante in its military response in south Lebanon and increased its war rhetoric in recent weeks, saying that the Iran-backed group’s presence along its northern border would not be tolerated.

The country has repeatedly threatened to go to war in Lebanon, a maximalist tactic political observers have called “diplomacy or force”.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said in a Sunday meeting with the French Foreign Minister that France could play a “positive and crucial” role in preventing war between Israel and Hezbollah.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced on either side of the Lebanon-Israel border and are unable to return until calm is restored to the frontier.

Updated: December 18, 2023, 6:00 PM