Israeli strike kills civilian in southern Lebanon as border clashes worsen

More than 20 civilians have been killed since October 8 including three journalists

Smoke from an Israeli bombardment of the Lebanese village of Kfarshuba on Wednesday during increased cross-border tensions. AFP
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An elderly woman was killed and her husband injured by an Israeli artillery strike on the southern Lebanese border village of Maroun Al Ras, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported on Thursday.

The woman, identified as Nihad Musa Muhanna, was killed while at home with her husband.

She is the third civilian to be killed in southern Lebanon in 24 hours during a surge in civilian deaths caused by Israeli bombardments in the south.

Since the Lebanon-Israel border conflict erupted, at least 20 civilians have been killed in south Lebanon – including three journalists – according to an AFP tally.

In Israel, where the military does not immediately release updated casualty numbers, the death toll stands at four civilians and seven soldiers.

Fierce clashes between Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah group have taken place along the Lebanon-Israel border daily for the past 75 days.

The Israeli army said it carried out air and artillery strikes against Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon on Thursday, implying the attack was in response to Hezbollah rockets fired into the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona overnight.

Hezbollah had fired several rockets into the Israeli town in retaliation to Israel’s killing of a Lebanese civilian on Wednesday.

A statement by the Iran-backed group said it would “never tolerate harming civilians" or allow "villages and towns to be invaded”.

On Thursday evening Hezbollah said in a statement that it targeted several civilian buildings in the Israeli towns of Metula and Ramot Naftali, "in confirmation of our decision to respond to the attacks of the brutal Israeli enemy on our villages and people".

Earlier in the day, two anti-tank missiles were fired from Lebanon into the northern Israeli towns of Avivim and Doviv, injuring at least two people, according to Israeli media. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the anti-tank missile attack and said it was "in response to the Israeli enemy’s attacks on villages and civilian homes, the martyrdom of citizen Nihad Musa Muhanna, and the wounding of her husband".

Since October 8, Hezbollah and allied armed groups have sought to distract Israel from its assault on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

The Iran-backed group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, claims Hezbollah has been successful in diverting one third of Israel’s military to the border with Lebanon.

But while Hezbollah has been relatively restrained in an attempt to contain the border conflict, Israel has responded forcefully, routinely escalating its strikes.

In recent weeks, Israel increased its war rhetoric, 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 with Lebanon, a maximalist tactic political observers have called “diplomacy or force”.

On Wednesday a civilian was shot in the head by an Israeli sniper as he travelled in his car on a road near the southern Lebanese village of Kfarkela.

More than 130 Lebanese have been killed since the start of this conflict, most of them Hezbollah fighters.

On Wednesday, Hezbollah announced the death of two more of its fighters.

The Lebanese army is not an active party in the border conflict, although a soldier was killed near the border by Israel earlier this month.

Updated: December 21, 2023, 7:11 PM