Image Credit: Reuters / Mohamed Azakir

Israeli airstrikes target journalists in south Lebanon, fear of escalation grows over the weekend

Israeli airstrikes have twice targeted gatherings of journalists in south Lebanon today, as media organizations and news stations seek to cover the ongoing escalations along the border. Light injuries were reported. This comes hours after two civilians were martyred today as a result of another airstrike.

Over the weekend, Israeli forces continued their heavy bombardment on southern Lebanese territories and reached new depths in their operations. On Saturday, Israeli warplanes reached as far as 40 kilometers deep inside Lebanese territory, carrying out operations in the Zahrani region, south of Saida. It was reportedly also the first time that Israeli forces targeted the borders of Kfarremman and upper Nabatieh.

Israeli forces continued to use the internationally prohibited white phosphorus in their attacks, burning large swaths of Lebanese agricultural and residential areas in the south of the country.

Some areas close to the border have become completely unreachable and currently uninhabitable for residents. Various reports show that Israeli forces are reacting to any sign of movement, be it civilian or military, with reports that only elderly inhabitants of border areas have been able to move around sporadically to sustain themselves and buy necessary items.

In response to Israel’s indiscriminate shelling in the south and its ongoing genocide in Gaza, Hezbollah has expanded its line of attack over the weekend and today. Since yesterday, Hezbollah has managed to inflict injuries on seven Israeli soldiers as a result of mortar shell launches on the Manara settlement, and another 10 settlers were wounded by rocket blasts and shrapnel.

Israeli Defense Minister: “Beirut Could Have the Same Fate as Gaza”

While addressing soldiers, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant threatened Hezbollah that an all-out war would result in widespread destruction in Lebanon, claiming that “they can do in Beirut what they’re currently doing in Gaza.”

He blamed Hezbollah of dragging Lebanon into a potential war and claimed that the noses of Israeli airplanes are “pointing north.”

On his part, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah noted that Hezbollah escalated operations over the past week in a televised speech on Saturday on the occasion of “The Day of the Martyr.”

Nasrallah said that drones and Katyushas are reaching deep Israeli targets, asserting that a hospital in the Galilee region admitted more than 350 wounded. He also pointed to the reach of reconnaissance drones being sent on a “daily basis”, while highlighting that Hezbollah must and will continue amplifying pressure on the enemy until the aggressions on Gaza halt.

Several reports have indicated that many rockets have hit northern settlements, the city of Kiryat Shmona and even the cities of Haifa and Akka. The Al-Qassam Brigades in Lebanon have also admitted to targeting areas north of Haifa with rockets.

Hezbollah media also released several videos showcasing operations taking place near the borders in the proximity of the village of Mays al Jabal whereby they hit Israeli targets as “quality” operations have significantly increased.

A Widening Conflict Involving Multiple Actors

On Sunday, five American service members were killed in a helicopter crash in the Mediterranean Sea. The details of the crash have remained unclear, with US sources claiming that the aircraft was conducting a training exercise.

On the Lebanese front, one member of the Amal Movement was killed and two others wounded as part of operations in the south. Several other parties in Lebanon have called on their members to join the fighting, with the Lebanese Communist Party also opening the door for volunteering a few weeks ago.

More than one month into the conflict, the scope of the fighting has steadily increased day by day, reaching deeper territories on both sides of the borders and adding more deaths and injuries, with one Israeli strike notably targeting the Mays al-Jabal Governmental Hospital in the south, damaging its facilities and injuring one doctor.

Axios reported that US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin expressed concern to the occupation’s “defense” minister Gallant that Israel is trying to “provoke Hezbolllah and create a pretext for a wider war in Lebanon that could draw the US and other countries further into the conflict, according to sources briefed on the issue.”

Israeli officials have denied this claim, but the Israeli state and its media have had a track-record for reporting factually incorrect information, often masking serious information to avoid troubling settlers and alarming soldiers.

Axios also reported that the Pentagon said “Austin “emphasized the need to contain the conflict to Gaza and avoid regional escalation” without specifically mentioning Lebanon.” Austin reportedly sought clarification about airstrikes in Lebanon, requesting that Israel avoids steps that could lead to a war between it and Hezbollah.

In response, an Israeli source reported that “Gallant told Austin Israeli policy is not to open a second front in Lebanon and stressed he doesn’t think such a scenario is going to happen”, despite Gallant and Netanyahu’s various threats against Hezbollah.