Israeli fire injures 3 Lebanese soldiers medical source

BEIRUT: Three Lebanese soldiers were lightly injured Friday by Israeli shelling in southern Lebanon, medical sources said, while the Lebanese army reported no casualties in a second attack on a hospital.

Hezbollah also announced the death of four of its fighters on Friday.

“Israeli artillery fire targeted the vicinity of a Lebanese army post in Ras el-Naqura, lightly injuring three soldiers,” a medical source told AFP.

An AFP photographer at the scene saw the soldiers lying on stretchers, exhibiting signs of breathing difficulties but with no open wounds.

On Tuesday, two people, including a Lebanese soldier, were killed in Israeli cross-border shelling — the first among Lebanese army personnel to be killed since the start of almost daily exchanges of fire on the border between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah.

The Israeli army acknowledged the incident and expressed “regret,” saying it was targeting a Hezbollah position and not the army.

The Lebanese armed forces, deployed to the border area, reported a second attack on Friday.

“On December 8, 2023, the military hospital in the town of Ain Ebel was bombed by the Israeli enemy, causing material damage but no casualties,” it said in a statement.

Regular cross-border fire began following the start of the Israel-Hamas war, triggered by the Palestinian Islamist movement’s surprise October 7 attack on Israel.

Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas, claimed responsibility on Friday for a series of attacks against Israeli troops and positions near the border.

Meanwhile, Israel continues to hit border areas in what it says is an attempt to destroy Hezbollah’s infrastructure.

Since October 7, border violence has killed at least 120 people in Lebanon, the majority Hezbollah fighters but also 16 civilians, including three journalists, according to an AFP count.

On Thursday, a civilian was killed in northern Israel by an anti-tank missile fired from southern Lebanon, bringing the number killed in attacks from Lebanon to at least six Israeli soldiers and four civilians, according to authorities.

Hezbollah had claimed responsibility for the anti-tank missile on Thursday, saying it was targeting Israeli military barracks.

On the same day, Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian armed group, announced the death of two of its fighters, bringing the number of its members killed in southern Lebanon to eight.

RAMALLAH: Israeli forces shot dead six Palestinians on Friday in a raid on a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, as the army confirmed it conducted a “counterterrorism” operation.

The ministry said those who lost their lives included a 14-year-old boy and an 18-year-old.

It said they had been killed “by bullets from the occupation (Israel) in the Al-Fara refugee camp” near Tubas.

The Palestinian Red Crescent also reported having treated six people wounded by gunfire, one of them critically.

“Clashes escalated with the (Israeli) forces who stormed the camp amid intense fire and … explosions,” said the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

The Israeli army said in a statement that during a joint military and Shin Bet counterterrorism operation, “two wanted suspects were apprehended,” listing both as prominent “terrorists” who had previously been imprisoned.

“During exchanges of fire, a number of terrorists were killed,” it added.

“Two M-16 rifles were found on the terrorists who were killed.”

Residents of the camp gathered for funeral processions on Friday morning, carrying the bodies of those killed in the raid through the streets.

The spot where one of them was shot had been turned into a makeshift memorial, with a pool of blood surrounded by stones and a Palestinian flag draped nearby.

Violence has flared in the territory since the outbreak of the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

On Wednesday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said four Palestinians, two of them teenagers, were killed in multiple Israeli operations around the West Bank, which has been occupied by Israel since 1967.

The Palestinian Authority says Israeli fire and settler attacks in the West Bank have killed at least 263 Palestinians since the Israel-Hamas war began.

This exceeds the entire death toll of 235, most of them Palestinians, killed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last year.

Last month, 14 Palestinians were killed in an Israeli raid in the city of Jenin, according to the Ramallah-based Palestinian health ministry.

It was the highest West Bank death toll from a single raid since 2005, according to UN records.

Israel’s military said at the time that soldiers and other security forces had killed “several terrorists” with a drone strike and others in gunfights, seizing weapons and destroying a “tunnel shaft containing ready-to-use explosive devices.”

Israeli officials and military have regularly charged that the Jenin refugee camp in the city had turned into a “terrorist hub” where armed groups are among tens of thousands of residents.

According to the medical charity Doctors Without Borders or MSF, since the war erupted, Palestinian gunshot victims in the West Bank are now being shot more often in the head and torso rather than the limbs.

Without specifying who was responsible for the shootings, MSF’s international president Christos Christou said on Thursday there had been a “clear shift” in the injuries witnessed by MSF staff.

“When you see that shift in the trauma, you will see more and more dead people,” he said.

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GENEVA: Gaza’s health system is on its knees and cannot afford to lose another ambulance or a single hospital bed, the World Health Organization

has warned, “The situation is getting more and more horrible by the day … beyond belief, literally,” WHO spokeperson Christian Lindmeier told a press briefing in Geneva.

“The health system is on its knees. Gaza cannot afford to lose any more health facilities, another single ambulance, any more hospitals … or even a single hospital bed more.”

The UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA said late on Thursday that only 14 of the 36 hospitals in the Gaza Strip were functioning in any capacity. The UN says about 80 percent of the population has been displaced, facing shortages of food, fuel, water, and medicine, along with the threat of disease.

“Children and people begging and crying for water — we’re at that level, where the most normal and basic supplies are not available anymore,” Lindmeier said.

“Right now, the calculation for Gaza is 1 to 2 liters of fresh water a day — that’s water for everything, not only for drinking.

“People are starting to cut down telephone poles to have a little firewood to keep warm or cook if they have anything available.

“Civilization is about to break down.”

Lindmeier said a convoy was supposed to take medical supplies to Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City on Friday and evacuate 12 patients to the south.

“That mission, we were told this morning, had to be suspended because of the security situation,” he said.

Health workers in the Gaza Strip do not have enough food and water to continue working, he said.

“Patients are bleeding on the floor, trauma wards resemble battlefields,” said Lindmeier.

“This callousness must end. We need a ceasefire and we need it now.”

GAZA/WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in his strongest public criticism of Israel’s conduct of the war on Hamas in south Gaza, said there was a gap between the government’s declared intentions to protect civilians and the casualties.

“As we stand here almost a week into this campaign into the south… it remains imperative that Israel put a premium on civilian protection,” Blinken told a press conference after meeting British Foreign Secretary David Cameron in Washington on Thursday.

“And there does remain a gap between… the intent to protect civilians and the actual results that we’re seeing on the ground.”

Israel says it must wipe out the Hamas militant group after its attack on Israel two months ago and is doing everything possible to get civilians out of harm’s way, including warnings about military operations.

US President Joe Biden spoke separately by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah on Thursday. Biden “emphasized the critical need to protect civilians and to separate the civilian population from Hamas including through corridors that allow people to move safely from defined areas of hostilities,” the White House said.

More than 17,170 Palestinians have been killed and 46,000 wounded, according to the Gaza health ministry, since Oct. 7, when Israel began bombarding Gaza in response to a cross-border rampage by Iran-backed Hamas militants, who control the enclave. The Hamas attack killed 1,200 people, with 240 people taken hostage, according to Israel’s tally.

The Israeli military on Friday said 92 of its soldiers had been killed in Gaza fighting since its ground incursions began on Oct. 20.


Hundreds more Palestinians were killed as Israel fought Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip’s biggest cities on Thursday — 350 people, according to Gaza health ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qidra. Israel said its forces killed a number of gunmen in Khan Younis, including two who emerged firing from a tunnel.

Arab states have renewed their push for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza, with United Arab Emirates asking the UN Security Council to vote on Friday morning on a draft resolution.

The United States and ally Israel oppose a cease-fire, saying it would only benefit Hamas. Blinken is due to meet top diplomats from Arab states, including Egypt, on Friday in Washington.

The draft was amended to say both “the Palestinian and Israeli civilian populations must be protected in accordance with international humanitarian law” and to “demand the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”

A resolution needs at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the five permanent members — the United States, Russia, China, France or Britain — to be adopted. The US does not support any further action by the council at this time.

As pressure mounts on Israel over the civilian toll of its war to destroy Hamas, the Palestinian Authority is working with US officials on a plan to run Gaza after the war is over, Bloomberg News reported.

Citing Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, it said the preferred outcome would be for Hamas to become a junior partner under the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), helping to build a new independent state that includes the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

“If they (Hamas) are ready to come to an agreement and accept the political platform of the PLO, then there will be room for talk. Palestinians should not be divided,” Shtayyeh said, adding that Israel’s aim to fully defeat Hamas is unrealistic.


In a development that should help smooth the way for more humanitarian aid to reach Gaza, Israel agreed to a US request to open the Kerem Shalom border crossing for the inspection of trucks and their cargo, a US official said on Thursday.

Egypt, along with the United Nations, has been lobbying Israel to speed up an inspection process, which requires the vehicles to drive to Egypt’s border with Israel before looping back to Rafah. The number of trucks crossing daily has dropped to fewer than 100, from nearly 200 during a Nov. 24-Dec. 1 truce, according to the United Nations.

Kerem Shalom sits at Gaza’s southern border with Israel and Egypt and the crossing was used to carry more than 60 percent of the truckloads going into Gaza before war erupted two months ago.

With no end in sight to the fighting, a top White House national security aide, Jon Finer, said the United States had not given Israel a firm deadline to end major combat operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

There are many “legitimate military targets” remaining in south Gaza, including “much if not most” of the Hamas leadership, Finer said at the Aspen Security Forum in Washington.

Meanwhile, hostages still held by Hamas have been kept incommunicado in Gaza despite Israel’s calls on the Red Cross to arrange visits and verify their wellbeing.

Marking two months since Hamas’ attack, the start of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah was a solemn moment for many in Israel.

Idit Ohel, whose son Alon, 22, was kidnapped by Hamas gunmen from an outdoor music festival where 364 people were killed, said she was hoping for a miracle.

“He doesn’t know it’s Hanukkah. I don’t think he knows the days, what’s day, what’s night,” said Ohel. “But he’s in our hearts all the time.”

CAIRO: Hamas said on Friday that Israel had bombed Gaza’s medieval Omari Mosque causing widespread destruction to the building and calling it a “heinous, barbaric crime.”

Photographs carried by Hamas-run media in Gaza that Reuters could not immediately verify showed massive damage to the mosque, with fallen walls and roofs and a huge crack at the bottom of the stone minaret.

Reuters journalists from Gaza identified the minaret in the picture as being that of the Omari Mosque.

A spokesperson for the Israeli military did not respond to a request for comment on the damage to the mosque.

The Omari mosque, named after Islam’s second caliph Omar, is the oldest and biggest in the tiny Palestinian enclave, which has been under Israeli bombardment since an Oct. 7 Hamas attack that Israel says killed 1,200 people.

Israel’s assault has killed more than 17,000 Palestinians, according to health authorities in the Hamas-run territory, and has laid waste to entire city districts including much civilian infrastructure.

BEIRUT: Four pro-Hezbollah fighters were killed on Friday in an Israeli drone strike on their car in the south of Syria, a war monitor said.

The four fighters “working on behalf of Hezbollah” were killed in Madinat Al-Baath town in the province of Quneitra, close to the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

The monitor was unable however to confirm if the combatants were Syrian or not, but they were not part of the Syrian army, Abdel Rahman said.

The day before, the Observatory, which has a network of sources in Syria, reported that Israel hit sites close to Damascus with eight missiles, as well as a “regime military post in the province of Quneitra,” without causing any casualties.

The strikes were a response to the bombardment of Israeli-annexed Golan, the monitor said.

On December 2, two Syrian Hezbollah fighters and two officers of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, were killed in an Israeli air strike on Hezbollah sites close to Damascus, the monitor said.

The official news agency of the Revolutionary Guards, Sepah News, reported on the same day that two members of the guards had died on an “advisory mission” in its ally Syria, but did not specify where and when they were killed.

Israel has undertaken hundreds of air strikes in its neighbor Syria since the start of the country’s civil war in 2011, targeting the positions of the Syrian army and groups affiliated with Iran, such as Hezbollah.

Those missions have intensified since the start of Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip on October 7, which was triggered by the Islamist group’s unprecedented attack on Israeli soil.

On November 8, three Hezbollah fighters were killed in an Israeli strike against the militant group’s positions close to Damascus, according to the Observatory.

Israel rarely comments on its operations in Syria, but says it wants to prevent Iran, its sworn enemy, from establishing itself on Israel’s doorstep.

Middle-East Israeli shelling in southern Lebanon

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