Israel bombs Gaza as fears grow of wider war

Israel bombed Gaza on Friday as exchanges of fire and threats over the Lebanon border raised fears of wider war.

Five municipal workers died “during an Israeli bombing” of a garage in Gaza City, said Mahmud Basal, spokesman for the civil defence agency in the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory.

In southern Gaza, AFPTV captured an overnight strike on a residential district of Khan Yunis city. A ball of fire and sparks flared, followed by grey smoke before residents inspected damage in the dusty darkness.

Just before midnight Thursday, Israel’s army said it had “successfully intercepted a suspicious aerial target that crossed from Lebanon”.

Early Friday, Lebanese official media reported fresh Israeli strikes in the country’s south.

This came after Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah movement said it fired dozens of rockets at an Israeli barracks in northern Israel on Thursday in retaliation for a deadly air strike in south Lebanon.

One of the group’s operatives was killed in that strike, Israel said.

Hezbollah claimed several other attacks on Thursday.

The Israeli military said its jets had struck Hezbollah sites and had fired artillery “to remove threats in multiple areas in southern Lebanon”.

Experts are divided on the prospect of a wider war, almost nine months into Israel’s campaign to eradicate Iran-backed Hezbollah’s ally Hamas, the Palestinian militant group in Gaza.

Exchanges between Hezbollah and Israel have escalated in recent weeks and the Israeli military said Tuesday that plans for an offensive in Lebanon “were approved and validated”.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said “no place” in Israel would “be spared our rockets” in a war, and also threatened nearby European Union member Cyprus.

The United States has appealed for de-escalation.

– Two soldiers killed –
Deadly violence on the Lebanon border began after the October 7 attack by Hamas militants from Gaza against southern Israel. That attack resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

The militants also seized hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza although the army says 41 are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 37,431 people, also mostly civilians, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

The war has destroyed much of Gaza’s infrastructure and left residents short of food, fuel and other essentials.

On June 16 the army said it would implement a daily “tactical pause of military activity” in a southern Gaza corridor to facilitate aid delivery.

But on Friday Richard Peeperkorn, of the World Health Organization, said “we did not see an impact on the humanitarian supplies coming in”.

Israel’s military on Friday identified two more soldiers killed during fighting in the territory, bringing to more than 310 the military toll since ground operations began.

The Gaza war’s regional fallout has also impacted Yemen, whose Iran-backed Huthi rebels have for months attacked ships on vital trade routes surrounding the Arabian Peninsula country.

The Huthis and Hezbollah say they are acting in response to Israel’s actions in Gaza.

The United States on Thursday again hit back. US Central Command said its forces had destroyed several Huthi drones, both sea-based and aerial.

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