SMOKE billows during Israeli bombardment on the village of Khiam, in south Lebanon, near the border with Israel on Wednesday.—AFP
SMOKE billows during Israeli bombardment on the village of Khiam, in south Lebanon, near the border with Israel on Wednesday.—AFP

GAZA STRIP: Israeli air strikes and clashes between troops and Palestinian militants rocked Gaza on Wednesday, after Israel’s army warned it had readied an offensive against Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement on the country’s northern front.

Witnesses and the civil defence agency in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip reported Israeli bombardment in western Rafah, where medics said drone strikes and shelling killed at least seven people.

The Israeli military has announced a daily humanitarian “pause” in fighting on a key road in eastern Rafah, but a United Nations spokesman said days later that “this has yet to translate into more aid reaching people in need”.

More than eight months of war have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian territory and repeated UN warnings of famine.

The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt has been shut since Israeli troops seized its Palestinian side in early May, while nearby Kerem Shalom on the Israeli border “is operating with limited functionality, including because of fighting in the area”, said UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq.

He told reporters that in recent weeks, there had been “an improvement” in aid reaching northern Gaza “but a drastic deterioration in the south”.

“Basic commodities are available in markets in southern and central Gaza.

Offensive against Hezbollah

The Israeli military, which has traded near-daily cross-border fire with Lebanon’s Hezbollah since October, said late Tuesday that “operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon were approved and validated”.

On Wednesday the military said its warplanes had struck Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon overnight, while reporting a drone had infiltrated near the border town of Metula in an attack claimed by Hezbollah targeting troops.

The Hezbollah also announced the death of four of its fighters.

Lebanon’s official National News agency reported Israeli strikes on several areas in south Lebanon on Wednesday morning, including on the border village of Khiam. Hezbollah later said it had fired dozens of Katyusha rockets and artillery rounds towards a barracks in Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel in retaliation for the attacks.

Israel said the Hezbollah attack did not cause any casualties and that its own “artillery struck the sources of fire”.

Hezbollah warning to Israel

Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday warned Israel there would be a safe place in Israel from Hezbollah attacks if Tel Aviv launches a broader war against it, including targets in the Mediterranean.

In a televised address on Wednesday, Nasrallah said “there will be no place safe from our missiles and our drones” in Israel in the event of a broader war. The group also had “a bank of targets” that it could target in precision strikes, he said.

Israel “knows that what also awaits it in the Mediterranean is very big…In the face of a battle of this magnitude, it knows that it must now wait for us on land, in the air, and at sea,” Nasrallah added.

Hezbollah has been trading fire with Israel for more than eight months in parallel with the Gaza war. On Tuesday, the Iran-backed group published drone footage of sensitive military sites deep in Israeli territory.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2024

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