Planned Israeli settlement threatens West Bank UNESCO site ecosystem

A view of the West Bank village of Battir, whose terraces are a UNESCO cultural landscape. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 21 June 2023

Planned Israeli settlement threatens West Bank UNESCO site ecosystem

  • Residents fear their ancient way of life could soon be in danger as Israel’s far-right government moves ahead with a settlement project on a nearby hilltop

BATTIR, West Bank: Generations of Palestinians have worked the terraced hillsides of this West Bank farming village southwest of Jerusalem, growing olives, fruits, beans and exquisite eggplants renowned across the region in a valley linked to the biblical King David.
But residents fear their ancient way of life could soon be in danger as Israel’s far-right government moves ahead with a settlement project on a nearby hilltop. Environmental groups say the construction could devastate already strained water sources supplying the agricultural terraces and cause extensive damage to an already precarious ecosystem.
Battir’s plight shines a light on how the trappings of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — settlements, land disputes and military activity — can take a toll on the region’s environment, natural resources and cultural heritage.
The proposed construction “will grab a great amount of land, and you don’t know where it will end,” said Rashid Owinah, 58, whose family has farmed in Battir for generations. “This will affect the community mentally, economically and socially.”
Two environmental groups, EcoPeace and the Society for the Protection of Nature, have petitioned Israeli authorities to halt the plan, citing its potential impact on the lush terrace gardens below.
In the valley where the Bible says David battled the Philistines, which in spots seem undisturbed by modernity, the farmers channel water from a 2,000-year-old Roman-era pool to grow crops on terraces that cascade down the mountainsides.
On a recent day, water burbled out of a rock face and trickled down an aqueduct beneath a fruiting mulberry tree toward the disused Ottoman train tracks below that once brought the terraces’ produce to Jerusalem.

A Palestinian vendor sells produce made by farmers in the West Bank village of Battir Sunday, June 4, 2023. (AP)

While the expansion of the Har Gilo settlement has long been on the books, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new ultranationalist and religious government has made such projects a top priority. Local settler leaders are pushing hard to make the plan a reality.
The United Nations’ cultural heritage body, UNESCO, recognized the millennia-old terraces in the serpentine valleys around Battir as a world heritage site in 2014.
“The complex irrigation system of this water supply has led to the creation of dry walls terraces which may have been exploited since antiquity,” according to documentation filed with UNESCO. “The integrity of this traditional water system is guaranteed by the families of Battir, who depend on it.”
Between the terraces and a surrounding buffer zone meant to protect them, the UNESCO cultural landscape makes up around 10 square kilometers (3.8 square miles) of hills and wadis. Plastic litter left by picnickers is strewn along paths crisscrossing the valley.
The terraces, which for generations served as the market garden of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, are irrigated by intricate aqueducts and channels that the village’s farmers share. Around 40 percent of Battir’s 5,000 residents depend on agriculture for a living, according to former mayor Akram Bader.
“Here, we refuse to use the new machines,” he said. “We want to keep the traditional way of agriculture.”
Environmentalists say those springs would be endangered by Israel’s planned settlement construction in the buffer zone abutting the terraces.
“If you build an extensive town at the top, it destroys this landscape,” said Nadav Tal, a hydrologist who serves as the Middle East Water Officer for EcoPeace, a joint Israeli-Palestinian group.
The springs dotting the valley at the base of Battir are fed by groundwater that is recharged by rainfall percolating into the limestone hills above. “If you build on top of these rocks, you can block the water from reaching the springs,” he said.
Access to water is already a challenge for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, with many suffering from chronic supply shortages.
Israel effectively controls most of the water supply in the territory and limits the amount of water the Palestinians can extract from the mountain aquifer, the main water supply in the territory. Modern construction elsewhere has caused springs Palestinian farmers depend on to dry up.
On top of that, human-driven climate change is projected to raise global temperatures and cause more frequent droughts in the Levant. Burgeoning Israeli and Palestinian populations are expected to further strain limited water resources.

A Palestinian collects water from a spring in the West Bank village of Battir Sunday, June 4, 2023. (AP)

The future settlement plan, known as Har Gilo West, is slated to develop a craggy hilltop less than a mile (1.5 km) across the valley north of Battir. The project, which would effectively double the size of the existing Har Gilo settlement, is set to begin with 560 new housing units atop a ridge overlooking the terraces.
Shlomo Ne’eman, head of the Gush Etzion settlement council, said there is a dire housing shortage in the area, and Har Gilo in particular. He said all urban development comes at the expense of the environment, but in the case of Har Gilo West he argues that it is atop “a rocky hill that has no natural value.”
“There are no springs, there are no forests, there is no rare flora,” Ne’eman said, accusing environmental groups of selective, political activism.
He insisted that the Har Gilo West plans “aren’t close to the terraces, don’t approach them, don’t harm and don’t touch them.”
In its petition, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel said the plan “doesn’t meet any environmental criterion” and lacked standard environmental assessment documentation.
A summertime survey it conducted on the site found at least 195 plant species, 25 butterfly species, numerous bird species, including at least three listed as endangered, and said it was a habitat for the endangered mountain gazelle and threatened striped hyena.
COGAT, the Israeli military body responsible for civilian affairs in the occupied West Bank, said the existing plans are aimed at “minimizing damage to the landscape, and (pay) attention to other environmental issues.” It said the planning would examine objections filed by environmental groups but gave no indication of when that would happen.
Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for a future independent state.
Most of the international community considers Israeli settlements an impediment to the creation of a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel. More than 700,000 Jewish settlers now live in dozens of settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Previous plans to build a section of Israel’s West Bank separation barrier adjacent to the terraces were scrapped after vocal opposition over its potential impact on wildlife and the ecosystem.
Yonathan Mizrachi of the Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now said the Har Gilo West plans have already passed several steps in the byzantine settlement approval process.
Although the the plan still awaits final authorization before bulldozers move in, he said the approval of a highway expansion for Har Gilo last September indicates Israel’s intention of moving forward.

‘Utter, deepening horror’: Rights chief warns of heightened risk of ‘atrocity crimes’ in Gaza

Updated 19 sec ago

‘Utter, deepening horror’: Rights chief warns of heightened risk of ‘atrocity crimes’ in Gaza

  • ‘Measures need to be taken urgently, both by the parties concerned and by all states, to prevent any such crimes’

GENEVA, ISTANBUL: UN human rights chief Volker Turk warned on Wednesday there was a heightened risk of “atrocity crimes” in Gaza, urging parties involved to
refrain from committing such violations.

According to the UN, the term “atrocity crimes” refers to the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as defined by international treaties.
“My humanitarian colleagues have described the situation as apocalyptic. In these circumstances, there is a heightened risk of atrocity crimes,” Turk said in Geneva.
“Measures need to be taken urgently, both by the parties concerned and by all states, particularly those with influence, to prevent any such crimes,” he said.


Civilians in Gaza continue to be relentlessly bombarded by Israel and collectively punished — suffering death, siege, destruction and deprivation of the most essential human needs such as food, water, lifesaving medical supplies and other essentials on a massive scale.

“Civilians in Gaza continue to be relentlessly bombarded by Israel and collectively punished — suffering death, siege, destruction and deprivation of the most essential human needs such as food, water, lifesaving medical supplies and other essentials on a massive scale,” he told a press conference.
“Palestinians in Gaza are living in utter, deepening horror.”
He said 1.9 million of the Palestinian enclave’s 2.2 million people had been displaced and were being pushed into “ever-diminishing and extremely overcrowded places in southern Gaza, in unsanitary and unhealthy conditions.
“Humanitarian aid is again virtually cut off as fears of widespread disease and hunger spread.”
Israeli troops and Hamas militants were locked in fierce ground combat in Gaza on Wednesday after the Israelis reached the southern city of Khan Younis.
Turk said that the only way to end the conflict was to end the Israeli occupation and opt for a two-state solution. “I think one thing is very clear: It cannot go back to what it was,” he said.
Turk’s office requested access to Israel to collect information on the Oct. 7 attacks, including acts of sexual violence, but had not received a response from Israel.
Hamas denies its fighters committed such abuses.
Turk also noted what he called “dehumanizing and inciteful statements” made by high-level Israeli officials and figures from Hamas, which he said could potentially be viewed as incitement to committing atrocity crimes.
“History has shown us where this kind of language can lead,” he said. “This is not just unacceptable, but a competent court may view such statements in the circumstances in which they are made as incitement to atrocity crimes.”
Israel declared war on Hamas after the militant group’s Oct. 7 attacks that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli authorities, and saw around 240 hostages taken into Gaza.
“As an immediate step, I call for an urgent cessation of hostilities and the release of all hostages,” Turk said, adding: “you need to come back to your senses.”
Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkiye rejects plans to establish a post-war buffer zone in Gaza because it would be disrespectful to Palestinians. Reuters reported last week that Israel had conveyed plans for the buffer zone to several Arab states and Turkiye.
Speaking to reporters on a flight from Doha, Erdogan said Gaza’s governance and future after the war would be decided by Palestinians alone.
“I consider even the debating of this (buffer-zone) plan as disrespectful to my Palestinian siblings. For us, this is not a plan that can be debated, considered, or discussed,” Erdogan’s office quoted him as saying.
Calling for Israel to hand back territories it occupies and end settlements in those territories, he said: “Israel must remove the terrorists — which it markets to the world as settlers — from those houses and those lands, and think about how it can build a peaceful future with Palestinians.”
Erdogan said Israel had become “the West’s spoiled child,” and blamed Western support for Israel for the situation in the region.
Asked about reports that Israeli officials want to hunt down Hamas members in other countries, Erdogan said carrying out such a operation in Turkiye would have “very serious” consequences.
“In the event they carry out such a mistake, they should know that they will pay the price for this very, very heavily,” he said.
Erdogan said Turkiye and Qatar wanted to rebuild Gaza and that Turkiye was ready to act as a guarantor or host a peace conference.
Ankara has sharply criticized Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, supports a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and hosts some members of Hamas.  Unlike most of its NATO allies, it does not view Hamas as a
terrorist group.


Houthi court sentences Yemeni women’s rights activist to death

Updated 06 December 2023

Houthi court sentences Yemeni women’s rights activist to death

  • Fatema Saleh Mohammed Al-Arwali, an activist and head of the Yemeni branch of the Arab League’s Arab Women Leadership Council, sentenced to death for gathering military intelligence
  • Yemeni officials, as well as local and international rights organizations and activists, severely denounced the death sentence and urged the militia to release Al-Arwali

AL-MUKALLA: A court in Houthi-held Sanaa on Tuesday condemned a women’s rights rights activist to death for spying, sparking an uproar in Yemen and abroad against the Iran-backed militia.

Abdul Majeed Sabra, a Yemeni lawyer, told Arab News that the Specialized Criminal Court of First Instance in Sanaa sentenced Fatema Saleh Mohammed Al-Arwali, an activist and head of the Yemeni branch of the Arab League’s Arab Women Leadership Council, to death for gathering military intelligence and sending key Houthi locations to the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen to be bombed.

The militia had kidnapped Al-Arwali while she was traveling to the southern city of Aden from Houthi-controlled Taiz. She was abducted and family requests to know her whereabouts were ignored.

The Houthis put Al-Arwali on trial early this year, but barred her from receiving legal representation.

Yemeni officials, as well as local and international rights organizations and activists, severely denounced the death sentence and urged the militia to release Al-Arwali and end its harassment of activists.

Dozens of Yemeni activists, lawyers and academics signed an online petition demanding that the Houthis release the activist, adding that her lawyer was barred from the courtroom during the first trial session and Al-Arwali was condemned to a lightless underground detention facility for almost a year.

“We urge that the death sentence imposed on her be overturned. We urge human rights and civil society groups to unite in opposition to this unfair sentencing that undermines justice,” the Yemeni activists said in the petition.

Amnesty International and the Geneva-based SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties also released separate statements criticizing the death sentence and urging the Houthis to free Al-Arwali.

“Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases, without exception, and calls on the Houthis to immediately quash Al-Arwali’s death sentence and ensure she promptly receives a fair trial in line with international standards or is immediately released,” the organization said on X.

Israel, Hamas must ‘de-escalate, allow humanitarians to operate,’ ICRC DG Robert Mardini tells Arab News

Updated 23 min 21 sec ago

Israel, Hamas must ‘de-escalate, allow humanitarians to operate,’ ICRC DG Robert Mardini tells Arab News

  • Senior official of International Committee of the Red Cross doubles down on calls to warring sides to respect Geneva Conventions
  • Expresses gratitude for strong Saudi support in Gaza and Sudan, wants humanitarian partnership to climb new heights

RIYADH: Despite the daily efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross to “step up, to scale up, to send more people on the ground in Gaza,” humanitarians “can only do so much,” according to Robert Mardini, the ICRC’s director general.

He made the comment in the course of an interview on Tuesday with Arab News in Riyadh, where he held a meeting with officials from the Saudi aid agency KSrelief.

“We cannot cope with this magnitude of needs and we want the parties in the conflict, the Israeli side and the Hamas side, to de-escalate and to create the conditions for humanitarians to be able to operate at the level that is required,” Mardini said.

He added that the current level and intensity of fighting in Gaza makes humanitarians’ ability to operate at the levels required “impossible.”

He said: “No meaningful humanitarian response is possible under the current circumstances. This is why we have to, in parallel to doing everything we can to step up the humanitarian response, double down on repeating and reiterating our calls to the parties in the conflict to respect their obligations under the rules of war, the Geneva Conventions.”

Mardini made it clear that as humanitarians, the ICRC will continue to push the limits of the possible to “make a difference for the people in Gaza.”

But while efforts will continue, Mardini said the ICRC can only do so much, “and the responsibility lies within the parties in the conflict.”

He added: “They have the obligations under the Geneva Conventions to protect civilians, to do everything they can to protect civilians, and to de-escalate the conflict; to ensure that there are regular humanitarian pauses to allow humanitarian supplies to get into the Gaza Strip; and to allow humanitarian workers to be able to deliver much-needed humanitarian support to the people in Gaza, and also to give respite to the civilian population, who are living in disastrous conditions, in constant fear of violent death.”

Mardini has no doubt about the immediate requirements: A de-escalation of the conflict, regular humanitarian pauses, and better conditions for civilians.

He said all people in Gaza today were traumatized by what is happening.

Palestinians wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip arrive at a hospital in Rafah. (AP)

When asked about what needs to take place to alleviate the suffering of people in Gaza, he said that humanitarian goods were critical.

“Even before the conflict started on Oct. 7, on average 400 to 500 or 600 trucks a day were getting into the Gaza Strip at the time where it was more or less normal life,” Mardini said.

Now, after nearly two months of fighting, “people (are) being torn apart with thousands killed, tens of thousands severely injured,” and the needs of the region are much greater.

He added: “So, definitely, 200 trucks, which was the maximum reach during the seven-day truce, is only a small fragment, and it’s a drop in an ocean of needs. Trucks alone will not save the people of Gaza.

“What the people of Gaza need now is going back to a normal life, is more respite, is the de-escalation of the conflict. And it’s a political solution that is needed to avoid additional loss of life, and desperation and despair.”

Mardini stressed that although the ICRC is currently trying to receive reasonable security guarantees, “it’s very tough because today, really nowhere is safe in Gaza.”

He said: “Our own teams were in the line of fire. The teams of the Palestine Red Crescent Society were also caught in the line of fire. Many other humanitarians from UNWRA, MSF, also lost their lives in the line of duty.”

Mardini underlined the gravity of the humanitarian situation, adding that the ICRC has a full surgical team working in the European Hospital of Gaza with Palestinian doctors and nurses.

He said: “The testimonies they are giving us are terrifying and horrifying, you know. The sheer number of mass casualties is totally unprecedented.”

Robert Mardini, director-general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, being interviewed by Arab News Assistant Editor-in Chief Noor Nugali. (AN Photo/Abdulrhman Bin Alshuhub)

According to the Hamas-run government media office in Gaza, fighting has claimed more than 16,000 lives since the start of the war. While a humanitarian pause was reached on Nov. 24, it ended on Dec. 1, with Israeli forces resuming combat operations.

Mardini said: “The resumption of the fighting in the Gaza Strip is taking its toll on the civilian population, which has been through impossible hardship over the past almost two months.”

Mardini described the testimonies he has heard from ICRC colleagues on the ground in the Gaza Strip operating in a hospital and supporting the Palestine Red Crescent Society volunteers as “horrendous.”

He added: “People are living in difficult circumstances. The families have been separated. Thousands are getting into hospitals.”

He said that hospitals were so overcrowded with the sick, injured, and those seeking shelter that treatment had become difficult. He added that such overcrowding, complicated by shortages of water and medicine, may lead to the spread of disease.

“Doctors are facing impossible choices of who to save, who will make it, who won’t be able to make it, because of the very limited medical supplies, the lack of fuel,” he said.

He added that civilians were in areas, “the so-called safe zones,” adding that “(they) are not really safe, because there are no safe places in the Gaza Strip today.”

Commenting on his meeting with Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, KSrelief’s supervisor general, during which they discussed the situation in Gaza, he said: “The King Salman Center is a very solid partner of ICRC.

“We have discussed ways and means to step up the humanitarian response. I expressed also our gratitude at ICRC for the very strong support of the King Salman Center, which has recently contributed through funding for our humanitarian endeavors in the Gaza Strip, as it did several months ago to our work in Sudan.”

When asked about the application of the law of armed conflict, which was put in place to set the conduct of military operations and provide protection for the victims of conflict, Mardini asserted that “the law of armed conflict actually works.”

He said: “We have a demonstration of this every day. Every day, an ICRC surgeon is able to save a life.

Commenting on his meeting with Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, KSrelief’s supervisor general, Mardini, right, said: “I expressed also our gratitude at ICRC for the very strong support of the King Salman Center, which has recently contributed through funding for our humanitarian endeavors in the Gaza Strip.” (Supplied)

“Every day, a Palestine Red Crescent volunteer is able to evacuate the severely injured from our hospital to the other. Every day. And we have seen this over the past seven days. The ICRC managed to facilitate the release of hostages in Gaza and Palestinian detainees in Israel to their families in Ramallah.

“These are the laws of war in action. These are the laws of war working.”

Elaborating on the point, he said that when the law of armed conflict works, it “prevents harm from happening in the first place … The laws of war are the ultimate safety net to uphold dignity in war. They should be supported; they should be respected by parties in the conflict.”

Discussing the role of the ICRC in aiding hostage situations, he described the agency as a “neutral intermediary.”

He said: “The ICRC has a dialogue with all sides of the conflict. And when the hostages were taken, we did three things. We first called for their immediate release, because civilian hostages should not be taken in armed conflict.”

He went on to add that the ICRC checked the health status of hostages and ensured they were able to communicate with their families.

He said: “I have to hope that the two parties will continue to negotiate for further releases of hostages and Palestinian detainees. And we are certainly ready to renew these types of operations, of course, provided the conditions are acceptable for the safety of hostages and detainees, and our own staff.”

He added: “We need to keep hope alive. I think it’s important civilians, on both sides of this front line, still have hope. And they deserve better conditions than they have today.”

US finds both sides in Sudan conflict have committed atrocities in Darfur

Updated 06 December 2023

US finds both sides in Sudan conflict have committed atrocities in Darfur

  • Fighting that began in Khartoum earlier this year has descended into ethnic violence in recent weeks

WASHINGTON D.C.: The Biden administration said Wednesday it has determined that both sides in the ongoing conflict in Sudan have committed atrocities in the African nation's western region of Darfur and elsewhere, saying the fighting “has caused grievous human suffering.”
The State Department said the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Armed Forces are responsible for either war crimes or crimes against humanity, or both, in Darfur, where fighting that began in the capital earlier this year has descended into ethnic violence in recent weeks.
“Based on the State Department’s careful analysis of the law and available facts, I have determined that members of the SAF and the RSF have committed war crimes in Sudan,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “I have also determined that members of the RSF and allied militias have committed crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.”
The finding does not include sanctions being imposed on leaders or members of either side but creates the authority for the US to impose them.
“This determination provides force and renewed urgency to African and international efforts to end the violence, address the humanitarian and human rights crisis, and work towards meaningful justice for victims and the affected communities that ends decades of impunity,” Blinken said. “Today’s determination does not preclude the possibility of future determinations as additional information about the parties’ actions becomes available.”
The Biden administration has already imposed sanctions on RSF and Sudanese army officials for their actions in other parts of the country, including Khartoum, the capital.
On Monday, the administration imposed sanctions on three Sudanese men accused of undermining “peace, security and stability.” Those sanctions freeze all property and assets held by Taha Osman Ahmed al-Hussein, Salah Abdallah Mohamed Salah and Mohamed Etta al-Moula Abbas in US jurisdictions.
All three held senior government positions under former autocratic President Omar al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan for 30 years. They were forced out of public office after al-Bashir was toppled in a popular uprising in 2019.
The sanctions were the latest the US has imposed on Sudanese leaders and companies in recent months.
In September, the US imposed sanctions on Abdel-Rahim Hamdan Dagalo — brother of the RSF leader — for alleged acts of violence and human rights abuses committed by the paramilitary.
In June, the US placed sanctions on four key companies either linked to or owned by the army and the RSF. In addition, it put visa restrictions on officials from both Sudanese sides, as well as other leaders affiliated with al-Bashir, but didn’t specify who was affected.
Sudan plunged into chaos in April when long-simmering tensions between the military, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, and the Rapid Support Force paramilitary commanded by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo escalated into open warfare.
The conflict had killed up to 9,000 people by October, according to the United Nations. However, activists and doctors groups say the real figure is far higher.
In Darfur, which was the site of a genocidal campaign in the early 2000s, the conflict has morphed into ethnic violence, with the RSF and allied Arab militias attacking ethnic African groups, according to rights groups and the UN.

Lebanon complains to Security Council about Israel’s targeting of Lebanese army

Updated 06 December 2023

Lebanon complains to Security Council about Israel’s targeting of Lebanese army

  • French foreign ministry calls on ‘all parties to exercise maximum restraint to prevent the outbreak of regional conflict’
  • FM Abdallah Bou Habib said that he ‘instructed the Lebanese mission to the UN to submit a complaint against Israel in response to the targeting of the Lebanese army’

BEIRUT: Israeli bombing of a residential building in the Lebanese border town of Mays Al-Jabal has killed one person and injured two others.

Following a night of violence, the public square in Mays Al-Jabal resembled a war zone. The town and its surroundings were relentlessly bombarded for hours, extending well into the night. The vicinity of Mays Al-Jabal Hospital experienced intense artillery shelling. The Israeli army used artillery and internationally prohibited phosphorus shells.

From Tuesday evening to Wednesday morning, Hezbollah launched 14 military operations against Israeli military sites. The actions were in response to an Israeli airstrike that resulted in the death of a Lebanese army soldier and the injury of three others at an army center in the Al-Adisa border area.

The French foreign ministry expressed its regret on Wednesday over the Israeli strike that claimed the life of a Lebanese soldier. It stressed “the need for all parties to exercise maximum restraint to prevent the outbreak of a regional conflict.”

Lebanese caretaker foreign minister, Abdallah Bou Habib, said that he “instructed the Lebanese mission to the United Nations to submit a new complaint to the Security Council against Israel in response to Israel’s targeting of the Lebanese army, which caused the martyrdom of a soldier and the injury of others.”

In the complaint, Bou Habib stated that “Israel is actively violating Lebanon’s sovereignty and attacking it on land, sea and air while refraining from implementing international resolutions, especially Resolution 425.”

UNIFIL forces warned of “the rapid increase in violence on the Lebanese-Israeli border, which could lead to serious consequences for people on both sides of the Blue Border Line.”

After Israel targeted a Lebanese army post, UNIFIL said in a statement: “This is the first time that a Lebanese soldier has been killed during this critical period. The Lebanese army did not engage in the conflict with Israel.”

Israeli army spokesman Avichay Adraee claimed that “a threat was detected from inside a Hezbollah reconnaissance complex and the firing of shells near the Nabi Aweida-Al-Adisa area on the Lebanese border.” He added that “members of the Lebanese army were not the targets of the Israeli raid.”

Adraee expressed “the Israeli army’s regret for the incident,” and claimed that the army was “investigating the circumstances.”

Hostilities between the Israeli army and Hezbollah continued at a low level but remained confined to a geographical border area. According to Israeli Channel 12, the missile fire that was launched from Lebanon hit “an Israeli army position in Mount Hermon.”

In the morning, the Israeli army attacked a house in the town of Aita Al-Shaab. Three shells were fired from a Merkava tank from the Pranit barracks. No casualties reported. The same house had been bombed previously.

The Israeli artillery targeted the outskirts of Yaroun and Maroun Al-Ras, as well as the towns of Khiam, Fardis, Rashaya Al-Fukhar, Helta Farm, the outskirts of Kfar Shuba, and Al-Salamia Farm on the outskirts of Al-Mari village in Hasbaya District. The areas surrounding the towns of Tayr Harfa and Shehine were also subjected to artillery shelling.

Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari said that “military drones bombed the headquarters of Hezbollah’s operations command and infrastructure.”

Hezbollah announced that it had targeted “an Israeli radar site and investigated direct hits.” ‏

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai is scheduled to visit Christian towns in the border region on Thursday.

During their monthly meeting on Wednesday, the Maronite bishops expressed their “deep sadness regarding the ongoing war in Gaza, with its terrible tragedies and horrific calamities.”

The bishops denounced “opening new fronts in southern Lebanon by any Palestinian faction because it is a violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty as an independent state.”

They affirmed their adherence to the principle that “the decision on war and peace must be in the hands of the Lebanese state alone because of its repercussions on the entire Lebanese people.”