Jerusalem: Fears that the Israel-Hamas war could mushroom into wider West Asia conflict rose with Washington warning of a significant risk to US interests in the region as ally Israel pounded Gaza and clashes on its border with Lebanon intensified.
Gaza’s health ministry said 266 Palestinians, including 117 children, had been killed by Israeli air strikes in the past 24 hours in the enclave, to which Israel laid “total siege” after a deadly mass infiltration into Israel by Hamas gunmen on Oct 7. In neighbouring Syria -where Hamas’ main regional backer Iran has a military presence - Israeli missiles hit Damascus and Aleppo airports on Sunday, putting both out of service and killing two workers, Syrian state media said.
Along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, the Iran-backed Hezbollah group has clashed with Israeli forces in support of Hamas in the deadliest escalation of frontier violence since an Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006. Hezbollah said four fighters were killed in heavy exchanges of fire on Sunday and another died of wounds sustained earlier, raising to 24 the number of its members killed since Oct. 7. At least five Israeli soldiers and one civilian have been killed on Israel’s side of the frontier, according to Israeli military reports. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu told troops in northern Israel that if Hezbollah launches a war against Israel, “it will make the mistake of its life.”
With violence around its heavily guarded borders increasing, Israel added 14 communities close to Lebanon to its evacuation contingency plan. With Israel keeping up daily bombings that have devastated swathes of heavily urbanised Gaza, Palestinians said they received renewed Israeli military warnings to move from Gaza’s north to the south to avoid the deadliest theatre of the war. They said military leaflets dropped on the territory contained the added warning that they could be identified as sympathisers with a “terrorist organisation” if they stayed put.