Israel has declared its northern border with Lebanon a closed military zone after deadly clashes with Hezbollah as fears grow of the opening of another front amid an ongoing bombardment of Gaza Strip.
Israel on Sunday warned civilians not to come within about 4km (2.5 miles) of the Lebanese border or else they may be fired upon. It told people living in border areas, which are filled with small rural towns and villages, to stay near shelters.
This comes after one person was killed in Hezbollah attacks on Sunday morning, which were met with artillery fire from the Israeli side.
The Lebanese political and military group said its attacks came in response to Israel’s strikes into Lebanon a day earlier that killed two civilians and a Reuters cameraman who was filming near the border.
Israel said it is investigating the killing of Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah. Footage released online shows Abdallah and other colleagues were clearly marked as “Press” when they were fired upon by a projectile launched from Israel.
Israel’s move on Sunday marks a major step in efforts to prepare for the possibility that Hezbollah may open a second front and come to the aid of Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip.
Israel has also struck the airports in Syria’s Aleppo and Damascus in an apparent effort to prevent Iran from using Syria to enter the conflict. Tehran has not officially threatened to join the war but has said Israel will face consequences if it does not stop its attacks on Gaza.
Al Jazeera’s Ali Hashem, reporting from Ayta Ash Shab in Lebanon, said that tit-for-tat retaliations continue between Israel and the Lebanese armed group along the Israel-Lebanon border.
“Everything going on at this border is linked to what’s happening in Gaza. This front could be the most concerning for Israel because of the quality of weapons Hezbollah has. The group has been stockpiling tens of thousands of rockets,” Hashem said.
“So there is a concern about what kind of a war could begin on this front, in case the situation in Gaza escalates.”
Hamas fighters stormed Israel in an unprecedented multipronged attack last week, killing about 1,300 Israelis and taking an estimated 150 people captives.
Israel has since been pounding the enclave of Gaza, having cut off its water, electricity and internet. Its forces appear to be preparing for a ground assault, promising to escalate the war even as its air strikes have killed at least 2,329 Palestinians so far, including 724 children.
In Lebanon earlier this week, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian warned that Hezbollah has put scenarios in place in case Israel advances with its strikes on Gaza.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) rights group has said it has verified footage taken both in Lebanon and in Gaza on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, that show multiple uses of artillery-fired white phosphorus over the Gaza City port and two rural locations along the Israel-Lebanon border.
White phosphorus is a lethal chemical capable of burning human skin and deep tissue that is banned for use in areas with civilian populations by a United Nations convention.__aljazeera.com