Israeli strikes kill at least 10 civilians in deadliest day for south Lebanon

Hezbollah commander reportedly killed as Nabatieh schools and government institutions closed following deadly strikes

Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest on Israel-Gaza

At least seven civilians from the same family, including one child, were killed in a single Israeli strike that destroyed a residential apartment in the southern Lebanese city of Nabatieh on Wednesday night.

Israel claimed that overnight one of its fighter jets killed a number of Hezbollah fighters, including a commander in the group's elite Radwan Force and his deputy.

The commander, Ali Mohammed Debs, had allegedly planned and operated attacks on Israel since October 8, when near-daily cross-border exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and Israeli forces began.

Hezbollah on Thursday confirmed the deaths of three of its fighters, including Mr Debs, without giving their ranks.

On Thursday morning a Civil Defence spokesman in Nabatieh declined to provide a final toll for dead and wounded, adding that the group was “still working".

The official National News Agency said the civilians killed were members of the Berjawi family. As rescue efforts continued into Thursday afternoon, a pile of the family's clothes, mattresses and other belongings lay strewn on the ground near the semi-destroyed building.

Abou Ibrahim, an elderly man who lives in the building directly across from the one targeted said many residents had left the area but that he had no plans to leave his home.

"Today the town was empty and people are in shock, but tomorrow, inshallah, it will return to normal," he said.

Hussein, a cousin of one of those killed in the Berjawi family, said rescue teams had heard a voice in the rubble.

"I'm waiting to see what will happen," he told The National.

The attack capped the deadliest day of strikes since the cross-border conflict between Israel and armed groups led by Hezbollah began in October, after a wave of strikes earlier on Wednesday that killed a mother and two of her children in the town of Sawaneh, bringing the day’s civilian death toll to 10.

It is the highest number of civilians killed by Israel in a day since the conflict began on October 8, when Hezbollah formally announced its support for its ally Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Hezbollah promised retaliation for the civilian deaths in the cities of Nabatieh and Sawaneh.

More Israeli strikes pounded south Lebanon on Thursday as the country's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned the escalation.

“At a time where we are insisting on calm and are calling on all sides to not escalate, we find the Israeli enemy extending its aggression,” said a statement from his office.

The opening of the southern Lebanese front was intended as a pressure campaign to deter Israel from its assault on the besieged enclave.

The majority of the attacks had been confined to the Lebanon-Israel border area. But in recent weeks Israel has struck further into Lebanese territory, including the strikes on Nabatieh this week, indicating that it is expanding the conflict.

Cross-border violence has killed at least 254 people on the Lebanese side, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also 38 civilians, according to an AFP tally. On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to the Israeli army.

The war began with the surprise attack on southern Israel by Hamas on October 7 that killed about 1,200 people, while Israel struck the densely populated Gaza Strip with relentless air strikes and a ground invasion, killing more than 28,000 people.

The war has gradually widened into a regional conflict as numerous Iran-allied militias announced their involvement in an attempt to pressure Israel into a ceasefire.

Lebanon's caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said Wednesday evening in an interview on the al-Hadath channel that he feared "war is getting closer to the heart of Lebanese territory."

The raid caused severe damage to the three-storey building and a nearby road, Lebanon's National News Agency reported. Cars and telephone infrastructure were also damaged.

Videos of the scene immediately after the attack showed chaos as ambulance crews rushed to clear rubble and find the injured.

Nabatieh schools and government institutions on Thursday announced that they would close “given the security conditions resulting from the repeated Israeli attacks, and out of concern for the safety of employees and stakeholders”, a statement carried by the National News Agency said.

Updated: February 15, 2024, 3:32 PM