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Australia confirms two of its citizens were killed in Israeli strike in south Lebanon

SYDNEY: Australia on Thursday confirmed two of its citizens were killed in an Israeli air strike in south Lebanon and said it was looking at Hezbollah’s claims that one of the Australian citizens killed had links to the militant group.

Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) earlier reported that a man, his brother and his wife, were killed during an Israeli air strike before midnight (2200 GMT), on a house in the center of the town of Bint Jbeil, around two kilometers from the border.

The NNA identified the dead as Ali Bazzi, his brother Ibrahim and his wife Shourouk Hammoud, and said another family member was wounded.

Hezbollah later announced that Ali Bazzi was one of its fighters.

A relative told AFP that Ibrahim Bazzi was an Australian citizen who had flown in for a visit about a week earlier.

“We will continue to make inquiries about this particular person, with whom Hezbollah has claimed links,” Acting Foreign Minister Mark Dreyfus said during a media briefing.

“Hezbollah has claimed this Australian as one of its fighters. Our inquiries are continuing.”

Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group backed by Iran, is a “listed terrorist organization” in Australia and it is an offense for any Australian to provide it with financial support or fight in its ranks, Dreyfus said.

The border between Lebanon and Israel has seen escalating exchanges of fire, mainly between the Israeli army and Hamas ally Hezbollah, since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7, raising fears of a broader conflagration.

The strike late on Tuesday, part of a flare-up of border area hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, hit a home in the town of Bint Jbeil where the militants enjoy widespread support.

Dreyfus said the Australian government had reached out to Israel about the attacks but declined to disclose what was discussed.

He urged Australians in Lebanon to leave the country while commercial flight options remained available.

Hezbollah, an ally of Palestinian Islamist faction Hamas, has been exchanging near-daily fire with Israel across Lebanon’s southern frontier since the eruption of the Israeli-Hamas war in Gaza in early October.

At the funeral procession in Bint Jbeil on Wednesday, an AFP photographer saw three coffins draped in Hezbollah flags.

Hassan Fadlallah, a lawmaker from the Iran-backed group, told the ceremony that “no crime against civilians will pass without the enemy paying the price.”

Hezbollah later Wednesday said it launched a barrage of 30 Katyusha rockets toward Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel “in response to the enemy’s repeated crimes and its targeting of civilian houses in Bint Jbeil.”

Since the cross-border hostilities began, more than 150 people have been killed on the Lebanese side, most of them Hezbollah combatants but also more than 20 civilians, three of them journalists, according to an AFP tally.

On the Israeli side, at least four civilians and nine soldiers have been killed, according to figures from the military.

Exchanges of fire have been largely confined to the border area, although Israel has conducted limited strikes deeper into Lebanese territory.

Hezbollah said Wednesday it carried out a series of other attacks on Israeli troops and positions, including one on the contested Shebaa Farms involving “suicide drones,” missiles and artillery.

The Israeli military said in a statement that “a number of launches were identified crossing from Lebanon toward various areas in northern Israel,” adding that the army struck the sources of fire and “additional areas in Lebanon.”

It also said “fighter jets” struck “terrorist infrastructure, as well as Hezbollah military sites.”

On Tuesday, Israel’s military said an anti-tank missile fired by the Shiite Muslim group wounded nine soldiers as they went to assist a civilian wounded in an earlier strike.

srael has been pushing for Hezbollah to withdraw north of the Litani River, which lies about 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of the border.

UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, called for the removal of armed personnel south of the Litani, except for UN peacekeepers and the Lebanese army and state security forces.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati said last week that Lebanon was ready to implement international resolutions that would help end Hezbollah’s cross-border attacks if Israel also complies and withdraws from disputed territory.
 

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