Strikes along Israel-Lebanon border kill 4 people as US envoy visits Beirut to press a cease-fire

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Israeli security forces in Kiryat Shoma, northern Israel, evacuate a wounded Thai man after he was hit by an anti-tank missile fired from Lebanon, in a nearby village on Monday, March 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

BEIRUT – An Israeli airstrike in southern Lebanon killed three paramedics from the militant group Hezbollah on Monday, state media said, hours after a missile strike blamed on the militants killed at least one foreign worker in northern Israel.

The deadly violence Monday came as a senior U.S. envoy visited Beirut and warned that a Gaza truce wouldn’t necessarily apply to conflict along the Lebanon-Israel border. Amos Hochstein urged the parties to reach a lasting cease-fire at the border following meetings Monday with Lebanese leaders.

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His comments came hours after the deputy leader of Lebanon’s militant group Hamas, Naim Kassem, said the only way to restore calm along the border is to end the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

Since the Israel-Hamas war started, Hezbollah has been exchanging fire with Israel almost daily, displacing thousands of people and spiking fear that the conflict may spread through the region. In northern Israel, 60,000 people have evacuated, the Israeli government says.

“People won’t come back anytime soon, they’re scared, it’s dangerous,” Haim Menus, 70, said Monday while buying hardware at one of the rare stores open in the nearly abandoned northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona. He is one of the few who have remained, working curtailed hours at a bakery.

“An anti-tank missile could come at any time,” Menus said.

Moments later, an anti-tank missile struck a field in the nearby community of Margaliot as sirens blared, killing one Indian worker and injuring seven other foreign workers from India and Thailand, according the Israel Rescue Services and the Israeli army. Paramedics evacuated the injured — two of them in serious condition — to hospitals via ambulance and helicopter.

The Israeli military said they struck the source of the launches as well as additional Hezbollah military infrastructure in southern Lebanon.

In Lebanon, the state-run National News Agency said that one of the Israeli airstrikes killed three paramedics with Hezbollah's Islamic Health Society in the border village of Oddaiseh.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah said its fighters aborted two infiltration attempts the night before by Israeli troops into a border area in southern Lebanon. It also said that its fighters carried out three attacks targeting Israeli posts along the border.

In Beirut, Hochstein, a senior adviser to U.S. President Joe Biden, began his talks by meeting Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a Hezbollah ally. He later met with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and the army commander, Gen. Joseph Aoun.

“The United States remains committed to advancing lasting security solutions achieved through diplomatic process,” Hochstein told reporters after he met Berri. He said such a move would allow tens of thousands of Lebanese and Israelis who were displaced by the conflict “to safely return” to their homes.

Hochstein’s visit came as the U.S., Qatar and Egypt have been trying for weeks to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and to convince the Palestinian militant group to release some of the scores of hostages it is still holding since the Oct. 7 attack that sparked the war.

Since the Israel-Hamas war began, more than 215 Hezbollah fighters and nearly 40 civilians were killed on the Lebanese side while in Israel, nine soldiers and 10 civilians were left dead in the attacks.

“I’m mindful that my arrival comes on the heels of a tense few weeks on both sides of the border,” Hochstein said. “An escalation will certainly not help Lebanon rebuild and advance forward at this critical time in Lebanon’s history,” he added in an apparent reference to Lebanon’s economic crisis since 2019.

“A temporary cease-fire is not enough. A limited war is not containable,” Hochstein said.

Asked if a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip would include Lebanon, he said it wouldn't necessarily be the case “that when you have a cease-fire in Gaza, it automatically extends. That is why we are here today to be able to have a conversation and discussions” on the situation in Lebanon.

Israeli officials have threatened a wider war in Lebanon if Hezbollah does not withdraw its elite fighters north of the Litani River as stipulated in a 2006 truce that ended a 34-day Israel-Hezbollah war.

Western diplomats have brought forward a series of proposals for a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, most of which would hinge on Hezbollah moving its forces 7-10 kilometers (about 4-6 miles) away from the border.

Kassem, Hezbollah’s deputy leader, blasted the United States in a speech Monday during a conference held in the group’s stronghold south of Beirut attended by Muslim clerics from several regional states. He blamed Washington for using its veto power three times to prevent resolutions at the U.N. Security Council to end the war in Gaza.

“We have said it clearly that whoever wants to be a mediator should mediate to stop the aggression,” Kassem said in his speech. He added that those who don’t want the war to expand in the region should deal with the cause “which is the brutal and criminal aggression by America and Israel against Gaza.”

“Stop the aggression on Gaza and the war will stop in the region,” he said.


Lidman reported from Kiryat Shmona, Israel.

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