Four Hezbollah fighters killed and five Israeli troops wounded since start of year

For nearly three months, Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah group have tip-toed around full-scale war

Hezbollah fighters carry the coffins of a fellow fighter and of one of his relatives who were killed in Israeli bombardment, in Bint Jbeil, in the south of Lebanon, on December 27.  AFP
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At least four Hezbollah fighters have been killed and five Israeli army soldiers wounded since the start of 2024, as the escalating cross-border conflict between Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah group nears its third month.

Three Hezbollah fighters from the southern Lebanese town of Kfarkela were killed on Monday afternoon. They were named as Jihad Musa Cheet, Musa Hassan Cheet, and Hussein Ahmed Yahya.

A fourth Hezbollah fighter, Abdul Jalil Ali Hamza, from Bekaa, was killed in overnight Israeli strikes in the south of Lebanon, the group announced on Tuesday.

On Monday evening the Israeli military said at least five reservists had been wounded in rocket attacks near the Adamit Kibbutz on the border with Lebanon.

“A number of launches from the territory of Lebanon towards the Adamite area were detected,” Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

As a result of the launches, five Israeli reserve soldiers were "slightly injured", he said.

"The soldiers were evacuated to receive medical treatment at a hospital, and their families were informed,” Mr Hagari added.

Since October 8, Iran-backed Hezbollah has engaged Israel in a mid-intensity frontier conflict in an attempt to divert Israel from its assault on the Gaza Strip. Hezbollah is a strategic ally of Hamas, which governs Gaza and also receives Iranian backing.

Despite initiating the conflict, Hezbollah has remained relatively restrained, striking mostly Israeli military targets and wary of igniting a full-scale war in Lebanon.

Israel has responded aggressively, consistently intensifying its responses. It has occasionally struck deeper into south Lebanon, although the fighting has largely remained confined to border areas on either side.

Israel’s threats to launch a full-scale war against Hezbollah have escalated in the last month.

On Monday a senior Israeli official told Reuters that some withdrawing Israeli troops in Gaza would be repositioned in north Israel in preparation for a potential escalation against Hezbollah.

"The situation on the Lebanese front will not be allowed to continue. This coming six-month period is a critical moment," the official told Reuters.

The deputy leader of Hezbollah, Naim Qassem, addressed Israel directly on Sunday.

"We say to them: Israel is not in a position to impose its options," he warned. "The persistent bombing of civilians in Lebanon means the response will be stronger and proportionate to the Israeli aggression."

Israel "must first stop the Gaza war in order to stop the war in Lebanon," Mr Qassem added.

The fighting along the Lebanon-Israel frontier has displaced tens of thousands of residents on both sides.

In Lebanon, the conflict has killed more than 160 people – mostly Hezbollah combatants and members of allied militias, and at least 20 civilians.

On the Israeli side, at least five civilians and nine soldiers have been killed, according to the military.

Updated: January 02, 2024, 11:26 AM