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Fires break out in northern Israel as conflict with Lebanon intensifies

Israeli authorities tackle blazes following a barrage of rocket and drone strikes launched by Hezbollah
Fires burn in northern Israel, next to the city of Kiryat Shmona near the Lebanon border, on 3 June 2024 (AFP/Jalaa Marey)
Fires burn next to the city of Kiryat Shmona, near the border with Lebanon, on 3 June 2024 (AFP/Jalaa Marey)

Intense forest fires broke out in northern Israel overnight on Tuesday following a surge of rocket and drone strikes fired from Lebanon

Israeli police said that the fires prompted evacuations in the northern city of Kiryat Shmona.

Fires were also reported in the Mount Adir area, as well as the northern kibbutz of Amiad, where fires consumed an estimated 400 hectares of land.

The fires led to the closure of several roads in the Galilee area, with more than 30 firefighting teams working through the night to contain the blazes.

By Tuesday morning, most fires were reported to be under control, according to Israeli media.

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Six Israeli reservist soldiers were taken to hospital with minor injuries due to smoke inhalation, the army said. 

"The forces gained control over the locations of fire, and at this stage, no human life is at risk," it added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said it was monitoring the fires, which first broke out on Monday after Hezbollah launched a series of rocket and drone attacks into Israel. 

Hostilities along the Israel-Lebanon border, ongoing since the start of Israel's war on Gaza in October 2023, have intensified in recent days.

Hezbollah fires drone squadron

On Monday, Hezbollah said it launched a squadron of drones at Israeli units in Galilee in retaliation for the assassination of one of its members in the southern Lebanese town of Zrariyeh.

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While the Lebanese group has used drones since the outbreak of the war on 7 October 2023 along the Israel border, the recent announcement marks the first time it has deployed a squadron of them.

In addition to drones, Hezbollah also said it launched dozens of Katyusha rockets at Israeli targets in Syria's occupied Golan Heights this week. 

Throughout the war, the group consistently stated that it possessed weapons capable of reaching deep into Israeli territory.

Earlier in May, Hezbollah said it had deployed attack drones armed with S-5 rockets against Israeli military positions, marking the first time it has publicly acknowledged using this type of weaponry since the hostilities began.

Hezbollah also released a video showing a drone en route to an Israeli target in Metula, northern Israel. The footage captured the moment two rockets were deployed before the drone exploded.

Lebanese media reported that the drone was loaded with approximately 25kg of high explosives.

Recently, hostilities along the Israel-Lebanon border, with both the Israeli military and Hezbollah extending their strikes beyond the usual border strip where the exchanges of fire have been concentrated.

On Sunday, Israeli air strikes killed two Lebanese civilian men from the town of Houla, where they had stayed throughout the war to herd their cattle, according to Reuters.

The Israeli military also bombed several villages in southern and eastern Lebanon.

One strike on the southern village of Siddikine, located inland from the coastal city of Tyre, wounded 16 children between the ages of four and 14.

Israeli bombing of the town of Bint Jbeil destroyed part of its famed old souq. Images shared by local media showed that the strike damaged several shops, buildings and homes.

Lebanon faces high risks of wildfires due to Israeli attacks, mainly due to the use of white phosphorous, according to a report in L'Orient Today. 

Last week, wildfires broke out in several southern villages following artillery shelling and white phosphorus attacks, the report said.

Israeli attacks on Lebanon have killed almost 450 people, including at least 80 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

On the Israeli side, at least 14 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed, according to the army.

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