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Strike kills Hezbollah fighter, civilian in Lebanon, amid seeming Israeli shift to targeted killings

SIDON, Lebanon (AP) — An Israeli airstrike hit two vehicles near a Lebanese army checkpoint in south Lebanon on Sunday, killing a Hezbollah member in one car and a woman in the other and wounding several other people, Lebanese state media and health officials reported.

The strike appeared to be part of a shift in Israeli strategy toward targeted killings in Lebanon after more than three months of near-daily clashes with Hezbollah militants on the border against the backdrop of the war in Gaza.

Hezbollah announced that one of its members, identified as Fadel Shaar, had been killed in the strike in the town of Kafra.

Several hours later, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that a civilian woman wounded in the strike, Samar al-Sayyed Mohammed, had died of her injuries.

Local civil defense and hospital officials said several others were wounded.

Video from the scene showed a passenger sedan in flames next to a small truck stopped in the middle of the road.

The Israeli military did not comment on the strike.

Since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, Hezbollah forces have engaged in near-daily clashes with Israeli troops along the border.

While the clashes had previously been limited mainly to a narrow strip within a few kilometers (miles) from the border, Israel in recent weeks appears to have moved to a strategy of targeted killings of figures from Hezbollah and allied groups, sometimes hitting in areas relatively far from the border, as was the case in Sunday’s strike.

On Saturday, another strike near the Lebanese port city of Tyre killed two people in a car — one of them a Hezbollah commander — and two people in a nearby orchard. The commander, Ali Hudruj, was buried Sunday in south Lebanon. The other occupant of the car, tech sector businessman Mohammad Baqir Diab, was identified as a civilian and was buried in Beirut on Sunday.

On Jan. 2, a presumed Israeli airstrike killed a top Hamas official, Saleh Arouri, in a suburb of Beirut, the first such strike in Lebanon’s capital since Israel and Hezbollah fought a brutal one-month war in 2006.

Speaking at Hudruj’s funeral Sunday, Hezbollah Member of Parliament Hussein Jeshi said Israel had “resorted to the method of assassinating some members of the resistance" to compensate for being unable to reach a military victory against Hamas after more than 100 days of war in Gaza.

The Lebanese militant group said in a statement later Sunday that it had launched an attack against the town of Avivim in northern Israel in retaliation for the strike in Kafra and for other “attacks that targeted Lebanese villages and civilians.”

Israel did not comment on the strike specifically but announced it had struck Hezbollah targets in several locations in Lebanon on Sunday. It later said that an anti-tank missile had hit a house in Avivim and no injuries were reported.

With dangers of a regional conflict flaring on multiple fronts, officials from the United States and Europe have engaged in a flurry of shuttle diplomacy in recent weeks between Israel and Lebanon, attempting to head off an escalation of the conflict into a full-on war on the Lebanese front.

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Sewell reported from Beirut. Associated Press journalists Ahmad Mantash in Sidon, Ali Sharaffedine in Beirut and Melanie Lidman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.