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Israeli Drone Strike in Lebanon Kills 2


BEIRUT — An Israeli drone struck 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 Iran-backed Houthi rebels on vessels passing through the Red Sea.

The drone strike near the coastal town of Jadra took place about 60 kilometers from the Israeli border, making it one of the farthest inside Lebanon since violence erupted along the Lebanon-Israel border on October 8, a day after Hamas’ terror 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.

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 and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The previous farthest strike was the January 2 attack that killed top Hamas official Saleh Arouri in Beirut.

On Saturday night, Israeli forces shelled the southern Lebanese border village of Houla, killing one person and wounding nine as they left a mosque after prayers, state-run National News Agency reported. The agency said that in addition to the artillery shelling, a drone fired a missile toward the mosque. Children were among the wounded, the agency said.

The attacks 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 had not achieved “anything tangible.”

In an apparent reference to attacks by Iran-backed 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.

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 Houthi-controlled 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, imperiling a key route for trade between Asia, the Mideast and Europe. However, many of the vessels attacked have tenuous or no clear links to Israel.

The Houthis’ media office said the U.S.-led coalition launched three airstrikes on Salif district in the Red Sea province of Hodeida on Saturday.

In response, the U.S. and Britain launched several airstrikes on Houthi-held areas across Yemen, including the rebel-held capital of Sanaa.

The Houthis held a mass funeral in Sanaa Saturday for 17 of their fighters who they said were killed in strikes by the U.S.-led coalition, according to the Houthi-run SABA news agency.

The report didn’t say when and where the fighters were killed.

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 three unidentified people were killed. Earlier it said casualties 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 paramilitary 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 to the Revolutionary Guard in Syria.

Tensions also have 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 because of 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 strike in Jordan attributed to the Islamic Resistance in Iraq. Officials from both countries announced Thursday the talks will resume, with the next meeting set for Sunday.