BEIRUT/JERUSALEM, Oct 21 (Reuters) – A fighter from the Lebanese group Hezbollah was killed along the border with Israel on Saturday, the Iran-backed group said, taking to 14 the number of its members it says have died during two weeks of escalating violence in the frontier region.
A security source in Lebanon said the fighter was killed in the Lebanese area of Hula, which lies opposite Margaliot on the Israeli side which Israel said was the target of an anti-tank missile attack. The Israeli army said it fired back.
Hezbollah and Israel’s military have been trading fire at the frontier on an almost daily basis since Palestinian group Hamas launched a deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and Israel retaliated with fierce airstrikes on Gaza.
It is the worst escalation in violence along the Israeli-Lebanese border since a 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.
Sources have previously said Hezbollah’s attacks were designed to keep Israel’s military occupied without provoking a major war. Israel has said it has no interest in waging war and said if Hezbollah is restrained it will maintain the status quo.
But rising tensions have raised concerns in the region and beyond about the risk of a wider conflict, as Israel makes preparations for an expected land incursion into Gaza.
The borderlands around Lebanon’s Hula have seen several heavy exchanges of fire recently, prompting Israel this week to evacuate the nearby Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona.
An Israeli army spokesperson said on Saturday evacuating Kiryat Shmona’s residents allowed the military to broaden its actions against Hezbollah, which is an ally of Hamas that also gets support from Iran.
Israel and Hezbollah both reported exchanges of fire on other points along the frontier on Saturday, including around Lebanon’s Alma Al-Shaab and Israel’s Hanita, an area where Hezbollah said it fired guided missiles and Israel responded.
(Reporting by Jerusalem and Beirut bureaus; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Ros Russell)