Two civilians were killed in northern Israel on Sunday after an anti-tank missile fired from Lebanon hit their home in a town near the border, raising new concerns of a second conflict erupting against the backdrop of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
The deadly strike came on the 100th day of a conflict between Israel and Hamas that has killed nearly 24,000 Palestinians, devastated vast swathes of Gaza, driven about 85% of its 2.3m residents from their homes and pushed a quarter of the population into starvation.
The war was triggered by Hamas’ October 7 surprise attack into southern Israel in which militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took about 250 hostages, about half of whom are still in captivity.
Tensions have soared across the region, with Israel trading fire almost daily with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, Iran-backed militias attacking US targets in Syria and Iraq, and Yemen’s Houthi rebels targeting international shipping, drawing a wave of US airstrikes last week.
Sunday’s missile strike came a day after the Israeli army said it killed three militants who had crossed into Israel from Lebanon and attempted to carry out an attack.
Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said that his group will not stop until a ceasefire is in place for Gaza.
“We are continuing and our front is inflicting losses on the enemy and putting pressure on displaced people,” he said in a speech, referring to the tens of thousands of Israelis who have fled northern border areas.
The unprecedented level of death and destruction in Gaza has led South Africa to lodge allegations of genocide against Israel at the International Court of Justice.
Israel adamantly denies the accusations and has vowed to press ahead with its offensive even if the court in The Hague issues an interim order for it to stop.
“No-one will stop us, not The Hague, not the axis of evil and not anyone else,” Mr Netanyahu said on Saturday, referring to Iran and its allied militias.
Israel has also vowed to return the more than 100 hostages still held in Gaza as its leaders have faced mounting protests from their families, including a 24-hour rally in Tel Aviv that began on Saturday and drew tens of thousands of supporters.
Israeli forces have only managed to rescue one hostage, while more than 100 were released during a weeklong ceasefire in November in exchange for 240 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
Hamas says no more hostages will be released until Israel ends its offensive.
Israel and Hezbollah have been careful not to allow their back-and-forth fighting to erupt into full-blown war on a second front.
But they have come close on several occasions, most recently in the aftermath of an airstrike that killed a top Hamas official in Beirut on January 2.
Hamas and Hezbollah have both blamed Israel for the strike.
The latest attacks on Israel, including the deaths of two civilians on Sunday, raised the likelihood of new Israeli reprisals.
The missile hit a home in the town of Yuval in northern Israel, killing a man in his 40s and his mother, who was in her 70s, Israeli rescuers said.
Although Yuval is one of more than 40 towns along the northern border evacuated by the government in October, Israeli media reported that the family stayed in the area because they work in agriculture.
More than 115,000 Israelis have been evacuated from northern Israel due to the ongoing tensions.
In Israel, 12 soldiers and seven civilians have died from rocket launches from Lebanon, and more than 170 were injured. Hezbollah has reported at least 150 fighters and 20 civilians have been killed in the near-daily exchanges of fire.
The deadly strike came hours after the army said it killed three militants who entered a disputed Israeli-controlled enclave in the Golan Heights.
A group called Islamic Glory Brigades claimed responsibility for the infiltration. The Associated Press could not independently verify the statement, and Hezbollah, the Lebanese branches of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad all said the group was not affiliated with them.
Since October, over 2,000 rockets and 350 drones have been launched from Lebanon, according to Israel.
Israel has also been under growing international pressure to end the war in Gaza, but has so far been shielded by US diplomatic and military support.
Israel says any ceasefire would hand victory to Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007 and is bent on Israel’s destruction.
The Gaza Health Ministry said on Sunday that hospitals had received 125 bodies in the last 24 hours, bringing the overall death toll to 23,968.
The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants but says about two-thirds of the dead are women and minors. It says more than 60,000 people have been wounded.
Israel says 188 soldiers have been killed and 1,099 wounded since the start of the ground offensive.
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