BEIRUT (Reuters) – A member of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement was killed in Israeli bombing of southern Lebanon on Monday, the Lebanese Hezbollah group said in a statement, as the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants expanded to the Israeli-Lebanese border.
Two sources close to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah said that his death in a bombing of a Hezbollah observation site would provoke a reaction from the group.
Hezbollah and Israel fought a brutal month-long war in 2006 and have exchanged fire intermittently across the border since then while avoiding a major conflict. They exchanged artillery and missile fire on Sunday.
The man was killed on Monday in Israeli bombing of southern Lebanon in response to a cross-border raid claimed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, which has been fighting alongside Hamas since it launched its surprise attack on Israel on Saturday.
The Israeli army said that soldiers supported by helicopters killed at least two militants who crossed the border.
A Hezbollah official said he had previously denied the group’s involvement in the attack.
Some residents of southern Lebanon said that they are leaving their homes along the border with Israel amid heavy bombardment that is still hitting the outskirts of towns and villages.
The official news agency reported that traffic was heavy on main roads due to people fleeing the border area and that schools in the area would remain closed on Tuesday.
A series of events over the past months have increased the risk of escalation along the Lebanese-Israeli border ahead of the final days of fighting in Israel and Gaza.
The Israeli army said in a statement that its soldiers “killed a number of suspected militants who infiltrated Israeli territory from Lebanese territory.” He did not clarify the number.
The statement added that military helicopters are “currently bombing the area.”
A security source in Lebanon and a source in the Lebanese border area said that a group of men approached the border and one of them opened fire on an Israeli observation point.
Israeli Army Radio reported that the site is located near Admit, on the other side of the Lebanese border towns of Alma al-Shaab and Zahraa.
A spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission said that its head, Major General Lazaro, “is in contact with the parties concerned and urges them to exercise the utmost restraint.”
The Lebanese army confirmed that there had been bombing in the border areas and asked people to be careful in their movements.
Gabi Haj, a father of three who owns a house near the border, described the violent shelling near him.
“Our house is really close to the border, so we will leave and go down to the village. All my neighbors are doing the same thing,” he said.
The French Consulate in Lebanon asked its citizens to postpone any travel to southern Lebanon. Britain also said tensions were high and the situation could escalate.
(Reporting by Laila Bassam, Taymour Azhari and Maya Gebaili in Beirut and Dan Williams in Jerusalem – Prepared by Muhammad for the Arab Bulletin) Writing by Taymour Azhari; Edited by Tom Perry, Hugh Lawson, Nick Macfie and Thomas Janowski
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