Israel and Hezbollah exchange fire as fears of second front grow

UN's peacekeeping mission in Lebanon was hit by a stray rocket on Sunday

Israel shells Lebanon after Hezbollah attack

Israel shells Lebanon after Hezbollah attack
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Israel and Lebanese armed group Hezbollah engaged in another round of armed engagements on Sunday, as fears related to a second front opening in the Israel-Gaza war heightened.

Hezbollah on Sunday morning said it had "targeted a Zionist enemy army centre in the Shtula area with guided missiles".

In a separate statement, the group said one of its fighters had died Sunday.

Hezbollah said the strikes were in retaliation for separate "Israeli aggressions" that killed two civilians and struck journalists, killing a Reuters videographer and wounding others.

Lebanon's army blamed an Israeli rocket which hit a car belonging to the journalists. Israel's army said it was "looking into" who launched the strike.

Hamas' armed wing the Al Qassam Brigades said on Sunday it fired 20 rockets from Lebanon on two Israeli settlements.

On Sunday, the UN's peacekeeping mission in Lebanon (Unifil) was hit by a stray rocket. Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said no one was injured.

The Israeli army closed the border area to civilians as tit-for-tat fire with Hezbollah and allied Palestinian factions in Lebanon intensified, killing more than 10 people in Lebanon and at least two in Israel since last Sunday.

Israel forces "responded with fire and destroyed Hezbollah positions and the source of the fire", an army spokesman said.

"In addition, there was fire at an Israeli military position. There were no casualties."

He said Israeli forces responded with fire.

"In accordance with the situational assessment and the recent shooting incident in northern Israel, the area up to four kilometres (2.5 miles) from the northern border with Lebanon has been closed," Israeli forces said in another statement.

Sporadic fire

Israel's defence minister said on Sunday that Israel has no interest in waging war on its northern front and that if the Lebanese group Hezbollah restrains itself then Israel will keep the situation along the border as it is.

Sporadic fire across the Israel-Lebanon border over the past week has raised concerns that fighting with Hamas militants in Gaza could escalate into a broader conflict.

On Sunday afternoon sirens sounded across northern Israel, sending residents running for shelter, and the military said it intercepted five of nine rockets fired from Lebanon. It then responded with artillery fire at the area from where the rockets were launched.

"We have no interest in a war in the north. We don't want to escalate the situation," Defence Minister Yoav Gallant told reporters.

"If Hezbollah chooses the path of war, it will pay a very heavy price. Very heavy. But if it restrains itself, we will respect that and keep the situation as it is," Mr Gallant said, noting that there had been exchanges of fire across the border.

The US's national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned on Sunday of the risk of conflict escalating in the Middle East, and said the US is trying to find safe passage for American citizens out of Gaza into Egypt.

Mr Sullivan, who spoke to CBS's 'Face the Nation', said the U.S. is focused on making sure the civilian population leaving Gaza have access to food, water and shelter, and that they can make it into safe areas.

"There is a risk of an escalation of this conflict, the opening of a second front in the north and, of course, Iran's involvement," Mr Sullivan said.

The US remains concerned about proxy forces and Lebanon's Hezbollah, he said.

Updated: October 15, 2023, 4:25 PM