Hezbollah fires rocket attacks on Israel following assassination of top Hamas leader. They launched dozens of rockets from Lebanon into northern Israel on Saturday in response to the targeted killing of Saleh Arouri. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah had previously warned of retaliation for Arouri's killing, emphasizing that failure to respond would expose Lebanon to potential Israeli attacks.
The rocket attack targeted an Israeli air surveillance base on Mount Meron, with Hezbollah claiming direct hits. The Israeli military acknowledged about 40 rockets fired towards Meron and confirmed targeting the Hezbollah cell responsible for the attack, but did not confirm hits on the base. The situation raises concerns about escalating tensions between Hezbollah and Israel amid the ongoing conflict with Hamas.
Israeli airstrikes targeted the outskirts of Kouthariyeh al-Siyad village in southern Lebanon, approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the border, causing casualties, according to Lebanon's state-run National News Agency. Such strikes, reaching deeper into Lebanon, have been infrequent since the border conflict began almost three months ago. The NNA also reported Israeli forces shelling border areas, including the town of Khiam, but Israel's army had no immediate comment on the situation.
In a separate incident, the armed wing of the Islamic Group in Lebanon, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and a close ally of Hamas, claimed responsibility for firing two volleys of rockets toward the Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona on Friday night. Two members of the group were reportedly killed in the strike that resulted in the death of Saleh Arouri.
The cross-border escalation occurred as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken commenced an urgent diplomatic tour in the Middle East, marking his fourth visit to the region since the Israel-Hamas war began three months ago. A deadly Hamas attack on southern Israel that claimed 1,200 lives - mostly civilians - and took 250 hostages was what started the conflict.
An Israeli military vehicle moves along the border with Gaza as smoke rises following a bombardment
Recent weeks have seen Israel reduce its military operations in northern Gaza while intensifying its offensive in the southern part of the territory, with a commitment to crushing Hamas. In southern Gaza, a significant portion of the 2.3 million Palestinians is confined to smaller areas, facing a humanitarian crisis and enduring ongoing Israeli airstrikes.
On Saturday, the Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza reported 122 Palestinians killed in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 22,722 since the beginning of the war. The count doesn't distinguish between combatants and civilians, with the ministry noting that two-thirds of those killed have been women or children. The overall number of wounded reached 58,166, according to the ministry.
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al-Balah received at least 46 bodies overnight, based on hospital records. Many were men who appeared to have been shot, and the casualties included five members of a family killed in an airstrike, as indicated by the records, amidst ongoing fighting between Israeli forces and militants in the area.
Israeli-dropped leaflets in certain areas near the hospital urged Palestinians to evacuate, citing "dangerous fighting." In Khan Younis, the focus of Israel's ground offensive in southern Gaza, the European Hospital received the bodies of 18 people killed in an overnight airstrike on a house in the Maan neighborhood. Witnesses reported that more than three dozen people, including displaced individuals, had been sheltering in the house.
Israel attributes civilian casualties to Hamas, claiming the group embeds itself within Gaza's civilian infrastructure. However, international criticism of Israel's conduct has increased due to the rising civilian death toll. The United States has called on Israel to take more measures to prevent harm to civilians while continuing to provide weapons and munitions and shielding Israel against international censure.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken initiated his latest Middle East trip in Turkey, as the Biden administration believes countries like Turkey can influence Iran and its proxies to mitigate concerns of a regional conflict. Recent incidents in the Red Sea, Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran have heightened fears of regional instability.
In discussions with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken sought Turkish support for emerging plans for post-war Gaza. This could involve financial or in-kind contributions to reconstruction efforts and potential participation in a proposed multinational force operating in or around the territory.
Following his talks in Turkey, Blinken is scheduled to meet with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Crete. Greece, a NATO ally and Turkish rival, has expressed support for U.S. efforts to contain the Israel-Hamas conflict and has signaled readiness to assist if the situation worsens.
Blinken's itinerary also includes stops in Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia over Sunday and Monday. His upcoming visits to Israel, the West Bank, and Egypt will conclude the diplomatic trip.
The European Union's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, announced during a visit to Beirut that he aims to kickstart a European-Arab initiative to revive a peace process leading to a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Borrell is set to visit Saudi Arabia on Sunday as part of these diplomatic efforts.