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Israel prepares for 'mass burials' in the north ahead of Lebanon operation

As tensions escalate with Lebanon, an Israeli minister confirms that mass casualties are anticipated ahead of the conflict
Smoke billows during an Israeli bombardment on the village of Khiam in southern Lebanon near the border with Israel on 19 June 2024 (Rabih Daher / AFP)

An Israeli minister announced preparations for "mass burial" plans in northern Israel ahead of a possible assault on Lebanon.

Speaking to Channel 14, the minister of religious affairs, Michael Malchieli, said his ministry has been "busy" with many issues relating to the conflict with Gaza, including preparing burials.

"We are busy with many things related to the war, in preparation, unfortunately, also for whatever - may it not happen - in the north," he said.

When pressed by the host on whether they were anticipating "mass burial" scenarios, he confirmed that they were expecting further deaths from the conflict with Lebanon.

"We in the ministry are holding meetings and preparations for bigger things in the north, yes," he explained.

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On Tuesday night, the Israeli army announced that it had approved plans for an offensive in Lebanon. Earlier in the day, Israel launched strikes on Hezbollah drone launch squads, according to the Israeli army.

The statement came as Hezbollah broadcast footage from a surveillance drone over the northern Israeli port city of Haifa in an apparent warning to Israel against starting a war. 

The nine-minute video pinpointed several locations, including military sites and civilian infrastructure.

Lebanon's Hezbollah releases drone footage of Israeli military sites in Haifa
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US envoy Amos Hochstein reportedly warned Lebanese officials that Israel is preparing to launch a limited offensive on Hezbollah, a senior Arab official told Middle East Eye.

Hochstein met with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri on Tuesday. Both officials have been used by the US as intermediaries with Hezbollah, which the US designates as a terrorist organisation.

Hochstein warned that once fighting in Gaza pauses, Israeli officials plan to focus entirely on the northern border, aiming to push Hezbollah back from the area so that the approximately 60,000 to 96,000 displaced Israelis can return to their homes before the start of school in the fall.

Israel and Hezbollah have exchanged near-daily fire since 8 October, but the conflict escalated last week after Israel killed Taleb Sami Abdullah, one of Hezbollah's most senior members. In response, Hezbollah launched hundreds of drones and rockets at Israel.

The hostilities have displaced tens of thousands of Lebanese and Israelis living in border areas.

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