UN urges halt to violence as Hezbollah and Israel exchange fire

UN urges halt to violence as Hezbollah and Israel exchange fire
UNIFIL said that the recent escalation in an exchange of fire between Israel and Hezbollah has the potential to put at risk a political solution to
2 min read
27 February, 2024
Mourners attend the funeral of Hezbollah fighter Hassan Salame in his hometown village of Khirbet Selm on February 27, 2024 [Getty]

Hezbollah and Israel exchanged fire on Tuesday following deadly Israeli strikes on east Lebanon a day earlier, while a United Nations official called for an end to the "dangerous cycle of violence".

Lebanon's Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, has exchanged near-daily fire with the Israeli army since war erupted between Israel and the Gaza-based Palestinian group on October 7.

Israeli raids near east Lebanon's Baalbek on Monday were the first in the area since hostilities began, and hit far beyond the usual border regions.

The Israeli army said the strikes targeted Hezbollah air defences after the group downed an Israeli drone.

The UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Joanna Wronecka, in a statement urged "an immediate halt to this dangerous cycle of violence and return to a cessation of hostilities".

Hezbollah said Tuesday it targeted the "Meron air control base... with a large salvo of rockets from several launchers", in response to the Baalbek strikes.

Israeli military spokesman Avichay Adraee said the rockets caused no casualties or damage to the base, while Israeli fighter jets raided and destroyed "a military site" and "military infrastructure" belonging to Hezbollah in retaliation.

One of the strikes targeted Baisariyeh, almost 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the nearest Israeli boundary.

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Later Tuesday, Hezbollah said it had targeted the same base again, as well as several other Israeli positions, one for the first time since hostilities started.

Two Hezbollah fighters were killed in the east Lebanon strikes on Monday. Later that day, the Iran-backed group fired 60 rockets at an Israeli base in the annexed Golan Heights.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) warned of a "concerning shift in the exchanges of fire" in recent days and "an expansion and intensification of strikes".

"Recent events have the potential to put at risk a political solution to this conflict," the force said in a statement, urging "all parties involved to halt hostilities... and leave space to a political and diplomatic solution".

Cross-border exchanges since October have killed at least 284 people on the Lebanese side, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also including 44 civilians, according to the latest figures.

On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to Israeli forces.