Hamas-allied official escapes Israeli strike in Lebanon

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Lebanese soldiers cordon off the site of an Israeli drone attack targeting a vehicle in the town of Souairi, in western Bekaa Valley in central Lebanon on March 24, 2024. (AFP)
  • A strike in January widely blamed on Israel killed Hamas's deputy leader Saleh al-Aruri in Beirut
  • Since October the cross-border violence has killed at least 326 people in Lebanon

Beirut, Lebanon–An Israeli drone strike on eastern Lebanon targeted a Lebanese official from a Hamas-allied group who escaped the attempted killing, a Lebanese security source said Monday.

Lebanon’s official National News Agency said the strike Sunday near the village of Suwairi in the Bekaa Valley killed a Syrian civilian in his vehicle.

The security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the target was Mohammad Assaf of Jamaa Islamiya, a Lebanese anti-Israel resistance group closely linked to Palestinian group Hamas.

Assaf was travelling on the road that was struck at the time of the attack, said the source, who had initially identified the target as a Hamas official in Lebanon.

Since Israel’s war on Gaza, following the October 7 attack on Israel, Israeli forces along the country’s northern border with Lebanon have exchanged near-daily fire with Hizbollah, a Hamas ally.

Israel has also targeted Hizbollah and Hamas officials in Lebanon, including in strikes deep into Lebanese territory.

The strike in the Suwairi area, near Lebanon’s border with Syria, was the first Israeli attack there in nearly six months of fighting.

On January 2, a strike widely blamed on Israel killed Hamas’s deputy leader Saleh al-Aruri in a southern Beirut suburb that is a Hizbollah stronghold.

According to another security source, pre-dawn Israeli strikes on Sunday wounded four people, including a Hizbollah member, in Baalbek, further north in the Bekaa Valley.

The cross-border violence since early October has killed at least 326 people in Lebanon, most of them Hizbollah fighters but also 57 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

At least 10 soldiers and seven civilians have been killed in northern Israel, according to the Israeli military.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the violence in Lebanon’s south and Israel’s north.