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File photo of an Israeli mobile artillery unit firing a shell from northern Israel towards Lebanon in January. Alamy Stock Photo
IDF

Israeli army says operational plans for offensive in Lebanon 'approved and validated'

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz earlier warned Hezbollah that it would be destroyed in the event of a “total war” between the two.

THE ISRAELI ARMY has said that plans for an offensive in Lebanon were “approved and validated” amid escalating cross-border clashes with Hezbollah.

Senior Israeli military officials “held a joint situational assessment in the Northern Command”, the IDF said in a statement this evening.

“As part of the situational assessment, operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon were approved and validated, and decisions were taken on the continuation of increasing the readiness of troops in the field.”

Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas, and Israel have been trading near-daily fire since the current conflict in Gaza began following the militant group’s 7 October attack on southern Israel.

The sign-off came as Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz earlier warned Hezbollah that it would be destroyed in the event of a “total war” between the two.

“We are very close to the moment when we will decide to change the rules of the game against Hezbollah and Lebanon. In a total war, Hezbollah will be destroyed and Lebanon will be hit hard,” Katz said, according to a statement from his office.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this month that the military was ready for an intense operation in Lebanon if necessary, pledging to restore security to the country’s northern border.

US special envoy Amos Hochstein was in Lebanon on Tuesday a day after meeting Israeli leaders, seeking “urgent” de-escalation on the Israel-Lebanon border.

Gaza

It comes amid a daily “pause” of military activity in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah to facilitate aid flows, coinciding with the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday.

However, in central Gaza, witnesses reported gunfire and artillery shelling near the Nuseirat refugee camp, where the civil defence agency said at least 13 people were killed in two separate strikes on a family home and a commercial building.

Al-Awda hospital said it received the bodies of “six martyrs and 15 wounded as a result of Israeli air strikes on various areas in the central and southern Gaza Strip”.

Witnesses and the Hamas government media office said there were some strikes and fighting elsewhere in northern and central Gaza.

In a statement, the Israeli army said its operations continued Tuesday in central and southern Gaza including Rafah city on the border with Egypt.

In a message for Eid al-Adha, US President Joe Biden has called for the implementation of a ceasefire plan he outlined last month, saying it was “the best way to end the violence”.

US envoy Amos Hochstein said the plan would ultimately lead to “the end of the conflict in Gaza” which would in turn quell fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.

Biden’s proposal would bring an initial six-week pause to fighting and Hamas would free hostages in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Mounting criticism

Netanyahu is facing mounting criticism at home over his handling of the Gaza war and hostage crisis.

The veteran right-wing leader invited the relatives of killed hostages to his home, several families told AFP today.

people-wave-israeli-flags-and-signs-during-a-protest-against-israeli-prime-minister-benjamin-netanyahus-government-and-demanding-elections-outside-of-the-knesset-israels-parliament-in-jerusalem-t People wave Israeli flags and signs during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government outside of the Knesset in Jerusalem. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

But one relative, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she would decline the invitation, saying, “he remembered a little late to invite us”.

Thousands gathered in front of parliament in Jerusalem this evening, calling for early elections and the resumption of negotiations for a hostage release deal, an AFP correspondent said.

“We are held hostage by an extreme-right government and we want this to stop,” said Marva, who said she has been demonstrating against Netanyahu for more than a year.

Moshe, a retired journalist, said: “Democracy is at stake”.

“We protest to save the country,” he said, adding he aimed to “bring down the Knesset”, Israel’s legislature.

It marked the second day amid a week of planned action in Jerusalem against Netanyahu and his government.

‘Death and suffering’

In Rafah, where the Israeli military has said it would pause fighting along a key route in the city’s east, witnesses saw Israeli military vehicles and reported shelling in other areas.

Hamas’s 7 October attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

The militants also seized 251 hostages. Of these, 116 remain in Gaza, although the army says 41 are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 37,372 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, especially women and children. 

United Nations rights chief Volker Turk said he was “appalled by the disregard for international human rights” and “unconscionable death and suffering”.

The United Nations has said aid access to Gaza has been severely hindered by factors including insecurity, the closing of crossing points to the territory, and Israeli procedural delays.

Since the start of Israeli military operations around Rafah in early May, when the vital crossing was seized and closed, “aid delivery and humanitarian access deteriorated further”, Turk said.

Hamas called for the opening of the Kerem Shalom and Rafah crossings and accused Israel and its close ally the United States of the “crime of preventing the entry of aid and food as a tool for political pressure”.

Displaced Palestinian Ali Hassan, sheltering in a tent in central Gaza’s Deir al-Balah, said “Eid al-Adha this year is not like previous holidays”.

“There is no meat or sacrificial animals, we don’t even have clothes for the children,” he told AFP.

With reporting from © AFP 2024 

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