LEBANON - ISRAEL

Israeli soldiers killed in Hezbollah attack

AFP

Two Israeli soldiers were killed and seven others wounded Wednesday in a missile attack claimed by Hezbollah on a military convoy near the country’s disputed border with Lebanon.

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The incident marks the most significant escalation in tensions in the area for the past many years.

The attack, which Hezbollah said was carried out by one of its brigades, was in apparent retaliation for a Jan. 18 Israeli air strike in southern Syria that killed several Hezbollah members as well as an Iranian general.

It came hours after Israeli jets bombed positions near the occupied Golan Heights, which Israel’s military said was in response to rocket fire from Syria.

Israel swiftly responded by launching “combined aerial and ground strikes” across the border into southern Lebanon, the Israeli military said. A Spanish peacekeeper in the area was killed, according to a UN spokesman and Spanish officials.

Tensions in the region, where the frontiers of Israel, Lebanon and Syria meet and militant groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are active, have been bubbling for months but have boiled over in the past 10 days.

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FRANCE 24's Gallagher Fenwick reports from Jerusalem, Israel

The Israeli military confirmed the death of the soldiers. Hospital officials said a further seven had been wounded, although none had life-threatening injuries.

Andrea Tenenti, spokesman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), said the peacekeeper’s death was under investigation. UNIFIL has more than 10,000 peacekeepers.

The United Nations’ special coordinator for Lebanon, Dutch diplomat Sigrid Kaag, called on all parties to refrain from any action that could further destabilise the situation.

Since the end of the war with Hamas militants in Gaza last year, Israel has warned of frictions on the northern border, including the possibility that Hezbollah might dig tunnels to infiltrate the Jewish state. In recent days it has moved more troops and military equipment into the area.

The frontier has largely been quiet since 2006, when Hezbollah and Israel fought a 34-day war in which 120 people in Israel and more than 500 in Lebanon were killed.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, REUTERS)

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