Israeli jets hit Lebanon as Hezbollah fires more powerful missile

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s Hezbollah said it carried out simultaneous attacks on Israeli positions at the Lebanese border on Saturday, as residents of south Lebanon reported some of the fiercest Israeli strikes yet during weeks of cross-border clashes.

The Israeli army said its warplanes had struck Hezbollah targets in response to an earlier attack from Lebanese territory, and was accompanying the air strikes with artillery and tank shelling.

A Lebanese source familiar with Hezbollah’s attacks said the group had fired a powerful missile not yet used in the fighting, saying it had hit an Israeli position across the border from the villages of Ayta al-Shaab and Rmeich.

Hezbollah has been exchanging fire with Israeli forces across the Lebanese-Israeli frontier since its Palestinian ally Hamas went to war with Israel on Oct. 7.

It marks the worst fighting at the frontier since a 2006 war, but has mostly been contained to the border area.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, in his first speech since the Hamas-Israel war began, said on Friday escalation on the Lebanese front would depend on events in Gaza and Israeli actions towards Lebanon. He also said the attacks so far at the border “won’t be all” Hezbollah does.

Nearly 60 Hezbollah fighters have been killed in the violence.

Security sources and witnesses in Lebanon reported some of the heaviest Israeli strikes yet.

Two thick columns of smoke were seen rising over hills near the Lebanese town of Khiyam‮ ‬in video shared with Reuters by Khiyam resident Soheil Salami, who said the area had been hit by an Israeli air strike.

“The shelling today intensified a lot – the shelling by the resistance and the counter shelling by the Israelis,” said Fouad Khreis, also speaking to Reuters from Khiyam. “Four shells fell on the outskirts of Khiyam, with no injuries,” he said.

The Israeli army said among the targets struck were “terrorist infrastructure, rocket caches, and compounds used by” Hezbollah.

Israel has said it has no interest in a conflict on its northern frontier. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month warned Hezbollah against opening a second war front, saying that doing so would bring Israeli counter-strikes of “unimaginable” magnitude that would wreak “devastation” upon Lebanon.

(Reporting by Laila Bassam in Beirut and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Ros Russell)