Israel and Hezbollah Trade Fire, With Deaths Reported on Both Sides

Israel and Hezbollah Trade Fire, With Deaths Reported on Both Sides

Hezbollah militants fired dozens of rockets into northern Israel from Lebanon on Wednesday, in what they said was retaliation for an Israeli strike in southern Lebanon overnight.

The militants’ barrage came as pro-Palestinian protesters turned up the pressure on the government in neighboring Jordan to sever ties with Israel. It also came as the United States said a previously canceled meeting with an Israeli delegation in Washington to discuss a planned offensive into the southern Gazan city of Rafah would be rescheduled.

For months, Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed group based in Lebanon, has traded fire with Israeli forces across the border, and on Wednesday, the Israeli military said its forces had targeted a “significant terrorist operative” near the town of al-Habbariyeh in southern Lebanon.

Lebanon’s Ministry of Health, which said the Israeli strike had hit an emergency medical center and killed seven paramedics, denounced it as “unacceptable.”

Hezbollah’s response was swift: An Israeli government spokesman said 30 rockets were launched into Israel. The strikes included a direct hit on a building in the city of Kiryat Shmona that killed a 25-year-old person, according to the Israeli authorities.

The exchange of fire came after three consecutive days of protest, demonstrating against the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, took place near the Israeli Embassy in Jordan’s capital, Amman, according to reports from The Associated Press and Reuters. Much of the anger was directed at the Jordanian government.

Jordan has maintained a crucial regional alliance with Israel, even as Jordan’s leaders have become increasingly critical of Israel since the war in Gaza began. The conflict has forced tens of thousands of people from their homes in Gaza. And more than 2.3 million registered Palestinian refugees live in Jordan, a population slightly larger than that of Gaza.

“Betrayal!” chanted the protesters. Some carried Palestinian flags, footage showed.

Security forces could be seen clashing with large crowds near the embassy in video recorded on Tuesday night by news agencies. The security forces dispersed the crowds and arrested protesters.

Like its close ally Hamas, which set off the war with a deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7, Hezbollah is backed by Iran. And since October, it has been firing rockets into northern Israel on a near-daily basis. The Israeli military has regularly responded with strikes against Hezbollah-linked targets inside Lebanon.

Hezbollah’s attacks have so far been big enough to demonstrate solidarity with Hamas but also measured enough to avoid provoking a full-fledged war with Israel.

In Gaza, the Israeli Air Force has continued to pound the territory with strikes as Hamas fighters have kept up attacks against Israeli soldiers — a further indication that a new U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire has failed to take hold.

Hamas said on Wednesday that it had hit a soldier with sniper fire in the area surrounding Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. A day earlier, it said it had targeted two Israeli tanks in the Khan Younis area, and an armored personnel carrier and a soldier on the coastal north-south road.

Israel has been outspoken in its condemnation of the Security Council resolution, which called for a pause in the fighting for the remaining weeks of Ramadan that would lead to a “lasting, sustainable” cease-fire and the unconditional release of all hostages held by militants in Gaza.

The United States, which had vetoed three attempts to approve a cease-fire resolution at the Council, abstained from the vote on Monday, allowing the measure to pass. A U.S. resolution that called for a cease-fire as part of a deal to release hostages held in Gaza was vetoed by Russia and China last week.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, once again expressed anger over the U.S. decision not to block the U.N. resolution when he met in Jerusalem on Wednesday with Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida.

The decision, Mr. Netanyahu said, allows “Hamas to take a hard line and to believe that international pressure will prevent Israel from freeing the hostages and destroying Hamas.”

After the U.N. vote, Mr. Netanyahu had canceled the meeting between a high-level Israeli delegation and American officials in Washington dedicated to the planned offensive in Rafah. President Biden had requested the meeting to discuss alternatives to a ground offensive into the city.

On Wednesday, the White House’s press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, said at a daily news briefing: “The prime minister’s office said that they want to reschedule this meeting so that we can talk about the Rafah operations. We welcome that. And we’re going to work with their teams to make sure that happens.”

Ms. Jean-Pierre added, “We’re going to set this date in the upcoming days.”

There was no immediate confirmation from Mr. Netanyahu’s office, which had earlier denied a news report of rescheduled talks.

Three Palestinian human rights groups said on Wednesday that, over the previous 72 hours, there had been an intensification of Israeli bombardments in the city, where hundreds of thousands of displaced Gazans are sheltering, and that dozens of people had been killed.

Some of the strikes described by the groups occurred after the Security Council resolution was passed, while several others took place before it was approved.

Isabel Kershner, Rawan Sheikh Ahmad and Zach Montague contributed reporting,

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