JERUSALEM (AP) — Attacks by Lebanon’s Hezbollah group Sunday wounded seven Israeli troops and 10 other people, Israel’s military and rescue services said.
The clashes came as skirmishes between the Iran-backed group and Israeli military continue to intensify along the Lebanon-Israel border, threatening to escalate into another front in the Mideast’s latest war.
The assault was the most serious incident involving civilians along the Lebanon-Israel border since an Israeli airstrike in south Lebanon on Nov. 5 killed a woman and three children.
The Israeli army’s chief spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said the Hezbollah attack on Israeli civilians was “very serious.”
He said Israel is focused on its war in Gaza but it also remains at a “very high level of preparedness in the north” and ready to take further action.
The Israeli military “has operational plans to change the security status in the north,” he told reporters. “The security status will not remain such that the civilians of the north do not feel safe returning to their homes.”
The Israeli military said in a statement that “seven IDF soldiers were lightly injured as a result of the mortar shell launches in the area of Manara in northern Israel earlier today.” Israeli rescue services did not identify the location or provide information about the 10 others wounded by rocket blasts and shrapnel, but said two of them were in critical condition.
The Israeli military said they identified 15 launches from Lebanon over the past hour and their defense systems intercepted four of them. The rest fell into open areas.
Hamas’ military wing, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for shelling the northern Haifa and the Israeli border towns of Na’ura and Shlomi from southern Lebanon without giving any further details.
Hezbollah first fired antitank missiles at an Israeli community just over the border on Sunday, Israeli officials said, badly wounding utility workers. The Israeli military said it was striking the origin of the launch with artillery fire. The Israel Electric Corp. said workers in the rural community of Dovev were wounded while repairing lines damaged in a previous attack. Israeli media reported that six people were wounded, including one critically.
Israel struck several southern Lebanese towns, including Yaroun, Mays el-Jabal, and Alma al-Shaab.
The Israeli military Sunday night shared an aerial video showing strikes on what it said was Hezbollah militant infrastructure including a “military compound with a warehouse of weapons and military infrastructure.” It did not give any additional details. Hezbollah said it launched guided missiles against a “logistical force belonging to the occupation army that was about to install transmission poles and eavesdropping and spying devices near the Dovev barracks.” It said it hit an Israeli military bulldozer in a separate strike. Shortly after the attack, air raid sirens were heard in northern Israel. Army Radio reported that another antitank missile had been fired from Lebanon.
Hezbollah later announced attacks on Israeli military gatherings and barracks in border areas Birket Riche and Zareit, as clashes continue to intensify.
Israeli troops and Hezbollah militants and their allies have been clashing along the border since the Israel-Hamas war started five weeks ago with a bloody incursion into southern Israel by Hezbollah ally Hamas. While largely contained, clashes have increased in intensity as Israel conducts a ground offensive in Gaza against Hamas.
Also Sunday, the United Nations peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, UNIFIL, said one of its peacekeepers had been wounded by gunfire overnight near the Lebanese town of al-Qawza. It was not immediately clear where the shooting had come from or whether the peacekeepers were targeted or caught in crossfire. UNIFIL said it was investigating.
Associated Press writers Kareem Chehayeb and Abby Sewell in Beirut and Julia Frankel and Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.