Israeli Troops Hurt by Hezbollah Drones as Clashes Escalate

(Bloomberg) -- Israel’s military said 18 soldiers were injured in a drone attack by Hezbollah, one of them seriously, the latest episode in a long-running campaign of tit-for-tat fire between the two sides.

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The assault in the northern Golan Heights on Sunday came as Israel and Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, move closer to a full-scale war after trading fire since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict in October.

The attack targeted a command center and was a response to Israel firing on houses in south Lebanon, Hezbollah said. Israel responded by striking targets including an observation post and a rocket-launch site, but didn’t imply the Iran-backed militant group’s latest actions were serious enough to be a cause for significant escalation.

Around 80,000 civilians have had to be evacuated from each of southern Lebanon and northern Israel because of the skirmishes. In Lebanon, more than 300 Hezbollah combatants and roughly 80 civilians have been killed. Israel’s lost about 18 soldiers and 10 civilians.

Hezbollah’s strikes in recent weeks have been among its most forceful since October, raising concerns that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be tempted to open up a new front in the conflict with Iran’s allied militias in the region.

A broader war could draw in Tehran directly — as happened briefly in April — along with its proxy groups in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, as well as the US.

Gaza War

Meanwhile, the war in Gaza is approaching the end of its ninth month and shows no sign of being resolved. Israel is committed to fighting Hamas until the group is eliminated, Netanyahu said on Sunday, partly to ensure its militants are never able to repeat the Oct. 7 invasion that triggered the conflict.

US President Joe Biden unveiled a three-part peace proposal at the end of May, which he has repeatedly said Netanyahu supports and Hamas doesn’t. Yet that calls for a permanent cease-fire without Hamas first being destroyed, which is contradictory to Israel’s aims.

Hamas remains militarily active, and 20 projectiles were identified crossing the border into southern Israel from the Gaza area of Khan Younis on Monday, according to the Israel Defense Forces. A number of them were intercepted and no injuries were reported.

Senior western diplomats have recently visited Jerusalem and Beirut to broker a diplomatic deal that would see Hezbollah fighters retreat from the Lebanese border area near Israel.

Hezbollah, which like Hamas is designated a terrorist group by the US, is the most powerful militia in the Middle East and thought by Israeli intelligence to have more than 100,000 rockets and missiles, a much bigger arsenal than what Hamas is believed to have had before Oct. 7.

(Updates with further exchange of fire in ninth paragraph.)

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