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Israel strikes east Lebanon for first time since Gaza war

BAALBEK, LEBANON (AFP) – Israel struck Hezbollah targets near the Lebanese city of Baalbek on Monday, a security source told AFP, in the first strike on Lebanon’s east in almost five months of cross-border clashes.

“An Israeli strike hit a building housing a Hezbollah civilian institution,” in a Baalbek suburb, the source said, requesting anonymity because they are not allowed to speak to the press. 

A second Israeli strike hit a warehouse near Baalbek belonging to the Iran-backed group, the source said. 

File photo shows a child standing inside a damaged building, stares at the Al-Faruq mosque, levelled by Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. PHOTO: AFP

The Israeli army said it is “currently striking Hezbollah terror targets deep inside Lebanon”.

Monday’s strikes marked the first attack on Hezbollah outside Lebanon’s south since the start of hostilities in the wake of the October 7 Gaza war.

The city of Baalbek in the Bekaa valley is a Hezbollah bastion bordering government-held Syria – a major Hezbollah ally.

Earlier Monday, the group said it shot down a “large” Israeli drone in southern Lebanon. 

Since October 8, Hezbollah and its arch-foe Israel have been exchanging near-daily fire but strikes have been largely contained to the border area – although Israel has on occassion launched strikes elsewhere in Lebanon, including in Beirut. 

At least 278 people have been killed on the Lebanese side since fighting erupted, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also including 44 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to the Israeli army.

Israeli female paramedic soldiers take cover from the wind made by a landing military helicopter during an exercise simulating evacuation of wounded people in northern Israel, near the border with Lebanon. PHOTO: AP