Saturday, 15 June 2024 02:53

Here’s the latest as Israel-Hamas war enters Day 253

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Hamas' armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

Hamas' armed wing al-Qassam Brigades said on Friday that two Israeli hostages held in Gaza were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Rafah a few days ago.

The group, in a video posted on its Telegram channel, did not release the names of those said to have been killed or provide any evidence.

The Israeli government "does not want your hostages to return, except in coffins," the al-Qassam Brigades statement said.

Israel rescued four hostages held by Hamas in a hostage-freeing operation in central Gaza's al-Nuseirat on June 8. The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said more than 250 Palestinians were killed in the raid.

The war in Gaza erupted when Hamas militants stormed southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel has responded with a military assault on the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza health ministry. Israel says its campaign is intended to eliminate Hamas as a threat and free the remaining hostages.

** Israeli jets strike targets in Lebanon after missile barrage hits northern areas

Israeli jets and artillery hit targets in southern Lebanon on Friday after dozens of missiles were launched towards northern Israel, the military said as an escalation in cross-border strikes continued for a third day.

Warning sirens sounded in border areas in northern Israel in the late morning as about 35 missiles were fired from southern Lebanon into the area around the border town of Kiryat Shmona.

Television footage showed damaged buildings and cars as well as brush fires in several locations caused by strikes or falling debris amid heatwave conditions.

Warning sirens sounded and emergency services said teams were active in several areas but there were no reports of any casualties.

In response, the Israeli military said its artillery attacked launch sites operated by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon and Israeli jets also hit Hezbollah infrastructure in the areas of Odaisseh and Kfarkela.

The Israeli military has exchanged regular fire with Hezbollah forces across the border in southern Lebanon ever since the start of the war in Gaza in October.

Israeli strikes have killed more than 300 Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon - more than in 2006, when the sides last fought a major war, according to a Reuters tally. Around 80 civilians have also been killed, the tally says. Attacks from Lebanon have killed 18 Israeli soldiers and 10 civilians, Israel says.

Neither side has appeared to wish a wider conflict, but there has been growing worry that the steady intensification of strikes could push the situation out of control with the risk of a wider conflict in a region that has already seen direct exchanges between Israel and Iran.

The latest salvo came after an Israeli strike killed a senior commander from the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon on Tuesday, drawing the heaviest bombardment of northern Israel since the start of the war in October last year.

Tens of thousands of residents have been evacuated from their homes on both sides of the border, creating growing pressure to resolve the stand-off, but diplomatic efforts have so far proved fruitless.

On Friday, the Israeli military said fighter jets and anti-aircraft systems had intercepted 11 of the 16 drones launched by Hezbollah against Israel in the past 72 hours.

"The Israeli Air Force is continuing to operate at all times to thwart terrorist activities and protect Israel's skies from any threat," it said in a statement.

 

Reuters

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