Is Israel’s Netanyahu pursuing perpetual war in Gaza to save his political skin?

Israeli protesters call for a hostage deal with Hamas and the removal of Netanyahu’s ruling coalition. (AFP)
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Updated 21 May 2024
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Is Israel’s Netanyahu pursuing perpetual war in Gaza to save his political skin?

  • Critics in the war cabinet have accused the PM of lacking a ‘day after’ strategy for Gaza
  • Fragmentation within government and among the population raise specter of mass protests

LONDON: Last Wednesday evening, five Israeli soldiers were killed and seven others wounded in a “friendly fire” incident in northern Gaza.

The five paratroopers, aged between 20 and 22 and reported by The Times of Israel to have been part of an ultra-Orthodox company of paratroopers, died when an Israeli tank mistakenly fired on their position during confused fighting in Jabaliya.

They are not the first Israeli soldiers to have died at the hands of their comrades. According to the IDF, of the 279 personnel killed so far in Gaza since the start of ground operations on Oct. 27, 49 have died in similar incidents or accidents.

But after seven months of war, with Israeli troops fighting and dying over territory that had, ostensibly, already been cleared by the IDF earlier in the war, the stark futility of these latest deaths has struck a bitter chord in Israel.




A member of Israel’s security forces aims his rifle during an Israeli raid at the Nur Shams camp for Palestinian refugees near the occupied West Bank city of Tulkarm, on January 4, 2024. (AFP)

As Benjamin Netanyahu continues to evade making a deal with Hamas to bring home the remaining hostages — an ongoing national trauma emphasized by the recovery on Friday from Gaza of the remains of three of the victims of the Oct. 7 massacre at the Nova music festival — many fear the Israeli prime minister is pursuing a strategy of perpetual war solely in a bid to save his own political skin.

It has been no secret that over recent months Israel’s military has been pushing Netanyahu to develop a “day after” strategy. Last Wednesday, just hours before the deaths in Jabaliya, Israel’s defense minister broke rank to publicly criticize his prime minister.

In an extraordinary video address, Yoav Gallant, a former general, revealed that since October he had been consistently pressing Netanyahu in cabinet meetings to work toward a political solution in Gaza.

The end of the military campaign, he said, “must come together with political action. The ‘day after Hamas’ will only be achieved with Palestinian entities taking control of Gaza, accompanied by international actors, establishing a governing alternative to Hamas’ rule.

“Unfortunately,” he added, “this issue was not raised for debate. And worse, no alternative was brought up in its place.”




A protester speaks on a megaphone while holding up a sign depicting Israeli politicians during an anti-government demonstration in Tel Aviv on February 3, 2024. (AFP)

Gallant then embarked on an unprecedented public attack on Netanyahu that at times veered close to open revolt. “Indecision is, in essence, a decision,” he said.

“This leads to a dangerous course, which promotes the idea of Israeli military and civilian governance in Gaza. This is a negative and dangerous option for the State of Israel — strategically, militarily, and from a security standpoint.”

In short, he said: “I will not agree to the establishment of Israeli military rule in Gaza.”

Then he issued a direct challenge.

“I call on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make a decision and declare that Israel will not establish civilian control over the Gaza Strip, that Israel will not establish military governance in the Gaza Strip, and that a governing alternative to Hamas in the Gaza Strip will be raised immediately.”

Netanyahu did not immediately respond to the attack in public. But right-wing national security minister Itamar Ben Givr — part of the shaky coalition government Netanyahu must hold together to cling on to power, and who has called repeatedly for the expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza and its resettlement by Jews — demanded Gallant be sacked.




Israel’s defense minister said that since October he had been consistently pressing Netanyahu in cabinet meetings to work toward a political solution in Gaza. (AFP)

Then, on Saturday, Benny Gantz, the other member of Netanyahu’s three-person war cabinet and his main political rival, announced that he would withdraw his centrist National Unity party from Israel’s emergency coalition on June 8 unless the prime minister agreed to a six-point “day after” plan for Gaza.

Gantz’s plan includes securing the return of hostages, ending Hamas’ rule, demilitarizing Gaza and establishing an international administration with “American, European, Arab and Palestinian elements” to manage its civilian affairs.

“Personal and political considerations have begun to penetrate the Holy of Holies of Israel’s national security,” Gantz said.

“A small minority has seized the bridge of the Israeli ship and is piloting it toward the rocky shoal,” and steps have to be taken urgently to avoid a “long and harsh existential war.”

Gantz also called on Israel to “advance normalization with Saudi Arabia as part of a comprehensive process to create an alliance with the free world and the West against Iran and its allies.”

Benny Gantz’s 6-point Gaza blueprint

  • Bring the hostages home.
  • Topple Hamas rule, demilitarize the Gaza Strip and gain Israeli security control.
  • Alongside that Israeli security control, “create an international civilian governance mechanism for Gaza, including American, European, Arab and Palestinian elements — which will also serve as a basis for a future alternative that is not Hamas and is not (Palestinian Authority President) Abbas.
  • Return residents of the north (evacuated due to Hezbollah attacks) to their homes by Sept. 1, and rehabilitate the western Negev (adjacent to Gaza, targeted by Hamas on Oct. 7).
  • Advance normalization with Saudi Arabia as part of a comprehensive process to create an alliance with the free world and the West against Iran and its allies.
  • Adopt a framework for (military/national) service under which all Israelis will serve the state and contribute to the national effort. Gantz, a former general, wants an end to exemption from military service for ultra-Orthodox Israelis.

Israel’s leadership is now so fragmented, and its population increasingly divided over Gaza and the wider issue of a Palestinian future, that there is even speculation that Netanyahu might be facing the unprecedented possibility of a military coup.

“As the war seems to have less of a point and less success, everything seems to be coming apart,” Shaiel Ben-Ephraim, analyst and host of the podcasts “Israel Explained” and “History of the Land of Israel,” told Arab News.

“Something has to give. The military is talking about a coup. I don’t think it is going to happen, but on Telegram and WhatsApp, military people who could do something are saying: ‘Someone should remove Netanyahu, someone should do something about Ben-Givr.’

“That’s very alarming. We’ve been hearing that from regular people on the left and the center for a long time. But now, even people in the Shabak (Israel’s internal security agency) are discussing the idea.”




An Israeli protester wearing a hat with a slogan against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on during an anti-government demonstration in Tel Aviv on April 27, 2024. (AFP)

Netanyahu, said Daniel Seidemann, an Israeli attorney specializing in Israeli-Palestinian relations and founder of NGO Terrestrial Jerusalem, “is leading us toward a never-ending insurgency.

“The entire military establishment opposes it,” Seidemann told Arab News. “The credible people in the government who are not racist and fanatics oppose it. But he’s adamant, and there are three reasons why.

“First, habitually Netanyahu is incapable of making a decision. He always procrastinates.

“Secondly, he doesn’t believe that peace exists. For him, life is eternal conflict, never decided, and the only goal is to be a bit stronger, a bit more sophisticated than your enemy and to contain them. But you’re not going to solve anything that way.”

But compounding these “predispositions” in the current situation in Gaza, he said, was Netanyahu’s overwhelming self-interest.

“An end of the war, a ceasefire, is the end of Netanyahu’s career and possibly jail for him, full stop,” he said. “That is why he has turned the hostages and their families into enemies of the state.”

There had, he said, been “an organized, sophisticated smear campaign against these people. It’s just remarkable. Why? Because you cannot prioritize returning the hostages and continue to fight in Gaza. It’s one or the other.

“Netanyahu knows that if the hostages are released, the price for that will be a ceasefire, and the ceasefire will be the end of him. So he is doing everything in his power to perpetuate this war. This is the way most people in Israel are talking today. His considerations are all personal.”




Soldiers killed in northern Gaza on May 15, 2024. Top row, left to right: Sgt. Ilan Cohen, Sgt. Daniel Chemu, Staff Sgt. Betzalel David Shashuah; bottom row, left to right: Staff Sgt. Gilad Arye Boim, Cpt. Roy Beit Yaakov. (Israel Defense Forces)

For Seth Frantzman, an adjunct fellow with the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies and senior Middle East correspondent and analyst at The Jerusalem Post, the lack of apparent direction over Gaza is rooted as much in systemic issues as in Netanyahu’s personality.

“I don’t think that they have invested the resources for long-term planning in terms of the strategy of what comes afterwards,” Frantzman told Arab News.

“That doesn’t mean that there aren’t voices that haven’t been calling for that — the Defense Ministry has been pushing for a day-after plan for many months.

“But Israel has spent 15 years or more ‘managing’ the conflict in Gaza with Hamas. Hamas became the devil that everyone is familiar with and therefore the idea of picking up some alternative kind of structure is a bit complicated — even though it’s obvious, after Oct. 7, that the murderous genocidal nature of Hamas means you just can’t live next to a group like that or continue to appease it.”

But Netanyahu’s “decisive indecision” is proving to be a gift for Hamas, Ben-Ephraim said.

“I think that at first Hamas was unpleasantly surprised by how Israel banded together and struck back so strongly, and the amount of support it got from the US.

“But because the Israeli strategy since has been so horrifically bad, they’re now very pleasantly surprised and indeed stunned to see Israel destroy its international standing, and its internal cohesion and solidarity, to no end besides Netanyahu’s surviving.”




Protesters lift national flags and portraits of Israelis held hostage by Hamas in Gaza since October 7, during a rally demanding their release outside Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s private residence on January 27, 2024. (AFP)

Even before his boss Gallant spoke out, Herzi Halevi, the IDF chief of staff, was reported to have taken Netanyahu to task over his failure to develop a long-term strategy.

On May 12, Hebrew-language television station Channel 13 reported what it said was a verbatim account of a heated meeting between Halevi and the prime minister.

“We are now operating once again in Jabaliya,” Halevi, a paratrooper and former head of Israeli military intelligence, reportedly said.

“As long as there’s no diplomatic process to develop a governing body in the Strip that isn’t Hamas, we’ll have to launch campaigns again and again in other places to dismantle Hamas’ infrastructure.” 

It would, he added, “be a Sisyphean task” — a reference to the ancient Greek myth about a king condemned by the gods to spend eternity repeatedly pushing a boulder up a hill, only for it to roll back down again every time.

A whiff of unprecedented dissent, if not outright revolt, is in the air.

“I don’t think you’re going to be seeing large-scale conscientious objection,” Seidemann said. “That’s not how it works here. But what you will see are tens of thousands of army reservists going home and leading the protests.”




Israeli police disperse a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in Jerusalem, on May 20, 2024. (AFP)

Such protests have brought about political change in the past in Israel, most notably the toppling of Prime Minister Golda Meir in the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in the run-up to which she had repeatedly rebuffed peace overtures from Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.

“There are hundreds of thousands of people in the streets already,” Seidemann said. “And there have been two kinds of protests — for the release of the hostages and for elections for a new government.

“Initially the hostage families distanced themselves as a group. They wanted to appear to be apolitical. But that’s over. They’ve joined forces. There will be an event of some kind at some time over the next month or two, which will bring out millions of Israelis.”

It would, he believes, be impossible for Israel to reoccupy and resettle Gaza, as right-wingers in Netanyahu’s cabinet have demanded.

Quite apart from the uproar such a move would provoke among Israel’s staunchest allies in the West, Gaza “is going to be a lunar landscape,” he said. “Just to maintain some semblance of normality, Israel would have to harness so much of its resources, energies, money, just to be on this fool’s errand of running Gaza.”




Smoke plumes from an explosion billow in the Gaza Strip, as seen from Israel’s southern border with the Palestinian territory, on May 21, 2024. (AFP)

In the meantime, millions are being traumatized, not only in Gaza, where the death and suffering are on such a shocking scale, but also — and crucially for Netanyahu’s future prospects — in Israel.

“The day after, both societies are going to be totally traumatized,” Seidemann said.

“A friend of mine sees the police records, and in Tel Aviv the police are receiving dozens of reports weekly of people who think they can hear digging under their apartment buildings.

“That’s the level of trauma that you’re dealing with and there’s a growing sense that this can’t go on.”

Whatever the eventual solution, and however the war in Gaza is finally brought to an end, one thing is certain, he believes.

“Nothing is possible with Netanyahu at the helm. The only thing that can be done until he’s gone is damage control.”

 


At least 90 Palestinians killed, Gaza officials say, as Israel targets Hamas military chief

Updated 12 sec ago
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At least 90 Palestinians killed, Gaza officials say, as Israel targets Hamas military chief

  • Hamas says Israel’s claims it targeted its leaders are false, aimed at justifying attack
  • Many wounded in strike, including women and children, taken to Nasser Hospital

GAZA: An Israeli airstrike killed at least 90 Palestinians in a designated humanitarian zone in Gaza on Saturday, the enclave’s health ministry said, in an attack that Israel said targeted Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif.
It was unclear whether Deif was killed. “We are still checking and verifying the results of the strike,” an Israeli military official told reporters.
The militant Islamist group Hamas said in a statement that Israeli claims it had targeted leaders of the group were false and aimed at justifying the attack, which was the deadliest Israeli attack in Gaza in weeks.
Displaced people sheltering in the area said their tents were torn down by the force of the strike, describing bodies and body parts strewn on the ground.
“I couldn’t even tell where I was or what was happening,” said Sheikh Youssef, a resident of Gaza City who is currently displaced in the Al-Mawasi area.
“I left the tent and looked around, all the tents were knocked down, body parts, bodies everywhere, elderly women thrown on the floor, young children in pieces,” he told Reuters.
The Israeli military said the strike against Deif also targeted Rafa Salama, the commander of Hamas’ Khan Younis Brigade, describing them as two of the masterminds of the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel that triggered the nine-month war in Gaza.
Deif has survived seven Israeli assassination attempts, the most recent in 2021 and has topped Israel’s most wanted list for decades, held responsible for the deaths of dozens of Israelis in suicide bombings.
The Gaza health ministry said at least 91 Palestinians were killed in the strike and 300 were injured, the deadliest toll in weeks in the conflict-shattered enclave.
Al-Mawasi is a designated humanitarian area that the Israeli army has repeatedly urged Palestinians to head to after issuing evacuation orders from other areas.
Reuters footage showed ambulances racing toward the area amidst clouds of smoke and dust. Displaced people, including women and children, were fleeing in panic, some holding belongings in their hands.
The Israeli military published an aerial photo of the site, which Reuters was not immediately able to verify, where it said “terrorists hid among civilians.”
“The location of the strike was an open area surrounded by trees, several buildings, and sheds,” it said in a statement.
The Israeli military official said the area was not a tent complex, but an operational compound run by Hamas and that several more militants were there, guarding Deif.

HOSPITAL ‘FULL OF PATIENTS’
Many of those wounded in the strike, including women and children, were taken to the nearby Nasser Hospital, which hospital officials said had been overwhelmed and was “no longer able to function” due to the intensity of the Israeli offensive and an acute shortage of medical supplies.
“The hospital is full of patients, it’s full of wounded, we can’t find beds for people,” said Atef Al-Hout, director of the hospital, adding that it was the only one still operating in southern Gaza.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was holding special consultations, his office said, in light of “developments in Gaza.”
It was unclear how the strike would affect ceasefire talks underway in Doha and Cairo.
“Maybe it’s good, maybe it’s not good. I don’t know about Mohammed Deif, I know that keeping the war is bad for all of us,” said Ayala Metzger, the daughter-in-law of an Israeli hostage who was taking part in a hostage solidarity march just outside Jerusalem on Saturday.
“We need to bring the hostages back,” she told Reuters.
“If (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu killed Mohammed Deif then he has his picture of victory so bring them back now.”
ATTACK HIT CALM AREA, WITNESSES SAY
Separately on Saturday, at least 20 Palestinians were killed in an Israeli attack on a prayer hall at a Gaza camp for displaced people in west Gaza City, Palestinian health and civil emergency officials said.
A senior Hamas official did not confirm whether Deif had been present in the attack on Khan Younis and called the Israeli allegations “nonsense.”
“All the martyrs are civilians and what happened was a grave escalation of the war of genocide, backed by the American support and world silence,” Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters, adding the strike showed Israel was not interested in reaching a ceasefire deal.
Critics have accused Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians, which Israel denies. It characterises its actions as self-defense to prevent another attack like Oct. 7, though the International Court of Justice ordered Israel in January to take action to prevent acts of genocide.
Hamas-led militants killed 1,200 people and took more than 250 hostages in the cross-border raid into southern Israel on Oct. 7, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel has retaliated with its military action in Gaza that has killed more than 38,000 Palestinians, medical authorities in Gaza say.
Witnesses said the Khan Younis attack came as a surprise as the area had been calm, adding more than one missile had been fired. Some of the wounded who were being evacuated were rescue workers, they said.
“They’re all gone, my whole family’s gone ... where are my brothers? They’re all gone, they’re all gone. There’s no one left,” said one tearful woman, who did not give her name.
Rising up the Hamas ranks over 30 years, Deif developed the group’s network of tunnels and its bomb-making expertise, Hamas sources say.
In March, Israel said it killed Deif’s deputy, Marwan Issa. Hamas has not confirmed or denied his death.


Syria says soldier killed, three wounded in Israeli strikes

Updated 14 July 2024
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Syria says soldier killed, three wounded in Israeli strikes

  • Sunday’s strikes targeted “a number of our military sites in the southern region and one of the residential buildings in the Kafar Souseh area in the city of Damascus,” the Syrian army said in a statement

DAMASCUS: One Syrian soldier was killed and three others were injured in Israeli air strikes against military sites and a residential building in Damascus early on Sunday, the Syrian army said.
The army said in a statement that the attacks were launched from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
For years Israel has been carrying out attacks against what it has described as Iran-linked targets in Syria, where Tehran’s influence has grown since it began supporting President Bashar Assad in the civil war that started in 2011.
Israeli strikes on Syria increased after the start of the war in Gaza last October.
Sunday’s strikes targeted “a number of our military sites in the southern region and one of the residential buildings in the Kafar Souseh area in the city of Damascus,” the Syrian army said in a statement.
“Our air defense systems confronted the enemy’s missiles despite their density and shot down a considerable number of them.”
Israel’s army said its strikes were in response to the launch of two drones from Syria toward the north of Eilat on Saturday, which it said were intercepted.
“Overnight, the IDF struck a Syrian military command center and infrastructure sites. Additionally, terror targets used by the Syrian military’s Aerial Defense Unit were struck,” it added.
 


Hamas leader slams Israel’s ‘heinous massacres’

Updated 14 July 2024
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Hamas leader slams Israel’s ‘heinous massacres’

  • Haniyeh denounced comments made by Netanyahu as well as “new conditions and points” in the ceasefire proposal that was first outlined by US President Joe Biden in May

GAZA CITY: Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Saturday accused Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of seeking to block a ceasefire in the Gaza war with “heinous massacres” carried out by Israeli forces, a statement by the Palestinian militant group said.
The head of the political bureau of the group, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and several other countries, called on international mediators to act following two attacks in Gaza that Palestinian officials said killed more than 100 people.
An Israeli strike on the Al Mawasi camp for displaced persons, which Israel said had targeted the Hamas military chief, left at least 90 dead and 300 wounded, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

Hamas’ political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh. (AFP file photo)

The civil defense agency said at least 20 people were killed in a strike on a makeshift mosque at Al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza.
The Hamas statement said Haniyeh contacted officials in Qatar and Egypt, which are seeking to mediate in the war set off by the Hamas October 7 attacks, as well as Oman and Turkiye to discuss the “brutal massacres.”
He said Hamas had shown “a positive and responsible response” to new proposals for a ceasefire and prisoner exchange, but “the Israeli position taken by Netanyahu was to place obstacles that prevent reaching an agreement,” according to the Hamas statement.
Haniyeh also denounced comments made by Netanyahu as well as “new conditions and points” in the ceasefire proposal that was first outlined by US President Joe Biden in May.
“This is also linked to the heinous massacres committed by the occupation army today,” he was quoted as saying.
Haniyeh called on the mediators “to do what is necessary with the American administration and others to stop these massacres.” Qatar and Egypt have both condemned the Israeli strikes.
The statement said Haniyeh would hold more contacts.
Netanyahu has insisted that Israel will destroy Hamas and bring back all hostages taken during the October 7 attack.
Following talks this week, Netanyahu also introduced a new condition that Israel must retain control of territory on Gaza’s border with Egypt to stop arms smuggling to Hamas.
Netanyahu told a press conference on Saturday that Israel’s military pressure had forced Hamas to seek a ceasefire, and that Hamas had sought 29 changes to the ceasefire proposal.
“I am not moving a millimeter from the outline that President Biden’s gave his blessing to, but I am also not allowing Hamas to move a millimeter,” Netanyahu said.
 

 


Tunisia arrests opposition party official in continuing crackdown on critics

Updated 14 July 2024
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Tunisia arrests opposition party official in continuing crackdown on critics

  • Ajami Lourimi, secretary-general of the Ennahdha Party, was detained with two others without judicial permission, party says
  • Ennahdha was the largest party in parliament until President Kais Saied dissolved the legislature in July 2021

TUNIS: A leader of Tunisia’s Islamist-inspired opposition party Ennahdha was arrested Saturday, his party said in a statement on Facebook.
The party, whose chief Rached Ghannouchi has been in jail since April last year, did not give any reason for the arrest.
“Ajami Lourimi, the secretary-general of the Ennahdha Party, was detained without judicial permission along with two companions in Borj Al Amrim,” around 37 kilometers (23 miles) west of the capital Tunis, the statement said.
Ennahdha was the largest party in parliament until President Kais Saied dissolved the legislature in July 2021.
He has since ruled by decree in the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings that swept the region more than a decade ago.
Last September, two leaders of Ennahdha, former prime minister Hamadi Jebali and Mondher Ounissi, who had served as Ennahdha’s acting chairman since Ghannouchi’s arrest, were arrested.
Saied’s government closed Ennahdha’s offices across Tunisia after Ghannouchi’s arrest over charges related to “terrorism.”
He is the best-known opposition figure imprisoned in Tunisia since Saied dismissed parliament and seized all state power in 2021.
Ennahdha had dominated Tunisian politics since the 2011 revolt that toppled the dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and launched the region’s Arab Spring revolts.
Ghannouchi was among more than 20 of Saied’s political opponents and other prominent figures, including former ministers and business executives, arrested early last year.
The arrests came as the North African country readies for its general presidential elections, set to take place in October.
Saied has not yet announced if he will seek another term.


Hezbollah fires rockets after Israeli strike on Lebanon

Updated 14 July 2024
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Hezbollah fires rockets after Israeli strike on Lebanon

  • Hezbollah had already launched multiple attacks against Israeli military positions along the border on Saturday

BEIRTU, Lebanon: Lebanon’s Hezbollah launched rockets at Israel on Saturday after an Israeli air strike that according to a Lebanese security source killed two civilians in the country’s south.
The Israeli military, whose forces have been trading regular cross-border fire with Hezbollah since early October, said its raid had targeted two operatives from the Iran-backed group.
The Shiite Muslim movement said it had retaliated by launching dozens of rockets at the border town of Kiryat Shmona, in Israel’s north.
The Israeli military said four soldiers were wounded including one “severely,” after air defenses intercepted most of the “approximately 15 launches... identified crossing from Lebanon.”
Israeli aircraft then “struck a Hezbollah field commander who was operating in the area of (Kfar) Tebnit in southern Lebanon,” the military added.
Lebanon’s official National News Agency (NNA) reported multiple wounded in an Israeli drone strike on a vehicle near Kfar Tebnit.
Hezbollah had already launched multiple attacks against Israeli military positions along the border on Saturday.
The Lebanese security source, requesting anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media, said that “two civilians were filling up water from a roadside spring” in south Lebanon’s Deir Mimas area when they were killed in an “Israeli air strike.”
A source close to Hezbollah, also requesting anonymity, said one of the men was a member of the group and the father of a fighter who had been killed, while the second man was a member of Hezbollah ally the Amal movement.
The pair were “civilians, not fighters,” the source added.
The Israeli army said in a statement that “soldiers identified two Hezbollah terrorists preparing to launch projectiles toward Israeli territory in the area of Deir Mimas in southern Lebanon.”
“Shortly following the identification, the IAF (air force) struck the terrorists,” the statement added.
Hezbollah said it had launched rockets “in response to the aggressions by the Israeli enemy against the villages... and civilians in the south.”
Hezbollah has traded almost daily fire with Israeli forces in support of ally Hamas since the Palestinian militant group’s October 7 attack on Israel triggered war in the Gaza Strip.
The NNA said an “enemy drone” killed two men on Saturday in the same area, identifying one of them as a local council member for the Amal movement in the nearby village of Kfar Kila.
It said they were collecting water from the spring “to take it for livestock in Kfar Kila.”
The Amal movement released a statement saying one of its members, born in 1964, was killed.
In Lebanon, the cross-border violence since October has killed more than 500 people, mostly fighters but also including more than 90 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
On the Israeli side, at least 29 people have been killed, the majority of them soldiers, according to the authorities.
The violence, largely restricted to the border area, has raised fears of all-out conflict between the foes, which last went to war in the summer of 2006.