Miami Herald (Sunday)

An Israeli drone strike in Lebanon kills 2 in one of the deepest attacks inside the country in weeks


An Israeli drone strike hit a car near Lebanon’s southern port city of Sidon on Saturday, killing at least two people and wounding two others, security officials said.

The strike came as tensions across the Middle East grow with the Israel-Hamas war, a drone attack last month that killed three U.S. troops in northeaste­rn Jordan near the Syrian border and attacks by Yemen’s Iranbacked Houthi rebels on vessels passing through the Red Sea.

The drone strike near the coastal town of Jadra took place about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the Israeli border, making it one of the farthest inside Lebanon since violence erupted along the Lebanon-Israel border on Oct. 8, a day after Hamas’ attack in southern Israel.

An Israeli security official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulation­s, said the target of the strike in Sidon was Hamas official

Basel Saleh, who was “injured to an unknown extent.” The official said Saleh was responsibl­e for enlistment of new Hamas recruits in Gaza and the West Bank.

The attack in Lebanon came as Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdoll­ahian met in Beirut with Lebanese leaders including the country’s caretaker prime minister, parliament speaker and the head of the militant Hezbollah group.

Amirabdoll­ahian said that if the United States wants to bring stability to the region again, it should work on forcing Israel to end its military operations in the Gaza Strip.

He told reporters after meeting his counterpar­t Abdallah Bouhabib that after four months of war, Israel and its backers did not achieve “anything tangible.”

In an apparent reference to attacks by Iranbacked fighters in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, Amirabdoll­ahian said that “if American wants calm to prevail in the region, then the mechanism and the solution is to stop the genocide, crimes and the war against Gaza and the West Bank.”

He blasted Washington, saying the U.S. is working on two tracks, one of which is sending weapons to Israel “and participat­ing in the genocide in Gaza” and at the same time speaking about reaching a political solution to the war.

Two Lebanese security officials said the strike damaged a car and killed two people, including one on a motorcycle. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulation­s.

Lebanese troops cordoned off the area.

Drone strikes in Lebanon blamed on Israel have so far killed several officials from Hezbollah as well as the Palestinia­n militant group Hamas.

The previous farthest strike was the Jan. 2 attack that killed top Hamas official Saleh Arouri in Beirut.

The U.S. Central Command announced Saturday that the U.S. military conducted self-defense strikes against two mobile unmanned surface vessels, four anti-ship cruise missiles, and one mobile land attack cruise missile that were prepared to launch against ships in the Red Sea from Yemen.

The military said the missiles and an unmanned vessel in Houthicont­rolled areas of Yemen presented an imminent threat to U.S. Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region.

Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea over Israel’s offensive in Gaza. But they have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperiling shipping in a key route for trade among Asia, the Mideast and Europe.

In Syria, Israeli airstrikes hit several sites on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, the Syrian military said Saturday.

The strikes came from the direction of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Syrian state news agency SANA reported, citing an unnamed military official.

It added that air defenses shot down some and those that landed resulted in “some material losses.”

Britain-based war monitor the Syrian Observator­y for Human Rights said one of the strikes hit a residentia­l building west of the capital.

It reported that three unidentifi­ed people were killed. Earlier it said causalitie­s could be “figures of non-Syrian nationalit­ies.”

The observator­y said Saturday’s assault was the 10th apparent Israeli strike on Syrian territory since the beginning of the year.

There was no immediate comment from Israel.

Presumed Israeli strikes in Syria in the past have killed high-ranking figures with Iran’s Revolution­ary Guard and allied groups. In December, a strike on a Damascus neighborho­od killed a high-ranking Iranian general, Seyed Razi Mousavi, a longtime adviser of the Iranian paramilita­ry Revolution­ary Guard in Syria.

Tensions have also flared elsewhere in the region.

A U.S. airstrike in Baghdad Wednesday killed a commander of Kataib Hezbollah, one of the most powerful armed groups in Iraq, as part of Washington’s retaliatio­n for the killing of three

U.S. troops in Jordan last month.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias that has launched numerous attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria, issued a call Friday for fighters to join its ranks to drive “occupying forces” out of the country.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq has conducted about 170 attacks on bases with U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria over the last four months, saying they were due to Washington’s support of Israel in its war in Gaza and that it aims to expel U.S. forces from the region.

Iraqi and U.S. officials launched formal talks last month to wind down the presence of U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq, but the talks were paused following the death of three U.S. troops in a strike in Jordan attributed to the Islamic Resistance in Iraq. Officials from both countries announced Thursday that the talks will resume, with the next meeting set for Sunday.

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