Hamas-Israel conflict: Israel, Hezbollah trade fire across Lebanon border amid alarm over Gaza war spillover

Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah group said on Saturday (local time) it had fired rockets at Israel, and its arch-foe said it had struck a "terrorist cell" in retaliation, as top US and EU diplomats visited the region to seek ways to halt spillover from the war.

Fighting also raged on inside Gaza, especially in and near the southern city of Khan Younis, where the Israeli military said it had killed three members of the militant Palestinian Hamas group that rules the densely populated coastal strip.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the European Union's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, were on separate trips to the region to try to quell spillover from the three-month-old Gaza war into Lebanon, the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Red Sea shipping lanes.

Israel and Hezbollah often trade fire across the Lebanese border, the West Bank is seething with anger and the Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen seem determined to continue attacks on Red Sea shipping lanes until Israel stops bombarding Gaza.

Air raid sirens sounded across northern Israel early on Saturday when the Israeli military said it had identified some 40 "launches" from Lebanon toward the area of Meron.

There were no reports of casualties or damage.

Hezbollah said it had hit a key Israeli observation post with 62 rockets as a "preliminary response" to the killing of Hamas' deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri on Tuesday.

Arouri was killed by a drone in the southern suburbs of Beirut, a stronghold of Hamas' Lebanese ally Hezbollah, in an attack widely attributed to Israel.

Lebanese Islamist militant group Jama'a Islamiya said it had fired two volleys of rockets at Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel, the third operation it has claimed since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on Oct. 7.

Israel's military said it had responded to the rocket attacks with a drone strike on "the terrorist cell responsible for the launches".

It said it had also struck Hezbollah targets in the areas of Ayta ash Shab, Yaroun, and Ramyeh in southern Lebanon, hitting a launch post, military sites, and "terrorist infrastructure".

Lebanese security sources and residents said Israel had also bombarded an area known as Kawthariyet el-Siyyed.

Hezbollah said five of its fighters had been killed in Israeli strikes.


Israel's onslaught began after Hamas militants from Gaza attacked Israel on Oct. 7, with 1,200 people killed and 240 taken hostage, according to Israeli officials.

The offensive, aimed at wiping out Hamas, had killed 22,722 people by Saturday, according to Palestinian health officials, and devastated the tiny enclave of 2.3 million people. At least 122 Palestinians were killed and 256 others injured in Gaza in the space of 24 hours, they said.

Blinken was meeting the leaders of Turkey and Greece on Saturday at the start of a week-long trip that will also take him to Israel, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

In Istanbul, Blinken held talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and then with President Tayyip Erdogan, a fierce critic of Israel's military actions in Gaza. Turkey, which unlike most of its NATO allies does not class Hamas as a terrorist organisation and hosts some of its members, has offered to mediate in the Gaza conflict.

In the talks, Blinken "emphasized the need to prevent the conflict from spreading, secure the release of hostages, expand humanitarian assistance and reduce civilian casualties," US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

Blinken also stressed the need to work toward broader, lasting regional peace that ensures Israel's security and advances the establishment of a Palestinian state, he said.

Borrell, the EU's senior diplomat, expressed alarm in Beirut about exchanges of fire between Israel and Hezbollah and the risk that Lebanon could be dragged into the Gaza conflict.

"Diplomatic channels have to stay open. War is not the only option – it's the worst option," Borrell said.


The official Palestinian WAFA news agency reported that 18 Palestinians had been killed by an Israeli attack on a house east of Khan Younis.

The Palestinian Red Crescent reported heavy shelling inside Khan Younis near the Al-Amal Hospital. Shrapnel flew into the medical facility amid the sound of heavy gunfire from drones, it said in a post on social media platform X.

The Israeli military said its commandos had killed three fighters and found "many weapons, grenades, magazines and vests that were used by Hamas" in a civilian home.

The traumatised residents of Gaza, most of whom have been displaced at least once by the bombardment, are wrestling with acute shortages of food, medicine and fuel.

Standing outside a morgue in Khan Younis, 11-year-old Mahmoud Awad said his parents and siblings had been killed by Israeli airstrikes.

"We were in al-Shati refugee camp and they dropped fliers saying that Gaza is a battlefield, so we fled to Khan Younis because it was a safe place, and they still bombed us," he said.

Israel denies targeting civilians but says Hamas militants deliberately embed themselves and their infrastructure among civilian populations.

Hamas, which is backed by Iran and is sworn to Israel's destruction, denies the accusation.