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Cross-border fire between Hezbollah and Israel leaves 16 dead

Isreli security forces inspect the area of the border town of Kiryat Shmona where a suspected Hezbollah rocket killed a civilian (Jalaa MAREY)
Isreli security forces inspect the area of the border town of Kiryat Shmona where a suspected Hezbollah rocket killed a civilian (Jalaa MAREY)

Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah movement on Wednesday announced the deaths of eight of its members after a day of cross-border fire with Israel that left at least 16 people dead.

Hezbollah said it had fired a barrage of rockets into northern Israel after its neighbour carried out a deadly strike on southern Lebanon.

One Israeli civilian was killed by the rocket fire.

Hezbollah, an ally of Palestinian militant group Hamas, has exchanged near-daily cross-border fire with the Israeli army since Hamas gunmen launched an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7 triggering war in Gaza.

The pro-Iranian movement said four of its fighters and two rescuers were killed, while its ally the Amal movement said it had lost two members, including a rescuer.

An official from the Jamaa Islamiya militant group had earlier told AFP that seven "rescuers" were killed in Israeli strikes.

Israeli rescue teams searching a damaged building in the border town of Kiryat Shmona "found a 25-year-old who was unconscious, with no pulse and not breathing", and pronounced him dead at the scene, the Magen David Adom emergency service said.

Hezbollah said its fighters fired "dozens of rockets" at Kiryat Shmona following what it called "the massacre committed by the Zionist enemy (Israel)" in the south Lebanon village of Habariyeh.

The emergency response arm of Jamaa Islamiya, a Lebanese militant group closely linked to Hamas, said "a number" of people were killed in the overnight Israeli strike in Habariyeh.

The Israeli military said the target of the strike was "a military compound" and those killed were Jamaa Islamiya militants.

It said a "significant terrorist operative" and other members of the group were planning attacks against Israel at the time of the strike.

A Jamaa Islamiya official, on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media, told AFP said seven "rescuers" were killed when an emergency centre in the village was hit.

Lebanon's official National News Agency said the "enemy warplanes" destroyed the emergency centre and led to "the martyrdom of seven members of the medical team".

- Hostilities -

An AFP correspondent at the funeral procession in Habariyeh saw seven coffins covered in the Lebanese standard and the flag of the Jamaa Islamiya-affiliated emergency response group.

Lebanon's health ministry denounced a "new Israeli attack on a health centre", adding that it contravened international conventions on the protection of civilians and humanitarian workers.

Hamas in a statement also condemned the raid.

Jamaa Islamiya's armed wing, the Fajr Forces, has claimed attacks against Israel from Lebanon since the start of the hostilities.

On March 24, an Israeli drone strike in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley targeted Jamaa Islamiya official Mohammad Assaf, a Lebanese security source said, adding that he survived but a Syrian civilian was killed.

Cross-border fire since October has killed at least 338 people in Lebanon, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also including at least 64 civilians, according to an AFP count.

At least 10 soldiers and eight civilians have been killed in Israel, according to the Israeli military.

The hostilities have prompted an exodus of civilians from vulnerable areas on both sides of the border and raised fears of all-out conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, which fought a devastating war in 2006.

burs/ami/bc