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Lebanon's Hezbollah says 2 fighters killed in Israeli attacks

Lebanese soldiers cordon off the site of a strike in Suwairi, eastern Lebanon -- a security source blamed the strike on 'Israeli aircraft' and said the Syrian driver was killed (Hassan JARRAH)
Lebanese soldiers cordon off the site of a strike in Suwairi, eastern Lebanon -- a security source blamed the strike on 'Israeli aircraft' and said the Syrian driver was killed (Hassan JARRAH)

Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah movement on Sunday announced the death of two of its fighters in attacks by Israel, accusing the country of trying to expand its strikes.

The accusation came after security sources reported two Israeli air raids deep inside Lebanon, in the country's east.

Israel and Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group allied to Hamas, have been exchanging cross-border fire almost daily since the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas militants began last October.

But fears have surged of an all-out conflict in recent weeks with Israel launching air strikes deeper into eastern Lebanon, targeting Hezbollah strongholds in the Bekaa Valley area several times.

"Today the enemy is trying to expand its attacks against civilians in Baalbek, in the western Bekaa or elsewhere," Hezbollah's deputy chief Naim Qassem said Sunday.

"There will be responses to each of them."

Hezbollah did not say where its two fighters died or give other details but said they "died as martyrs" in Israeli attacks.

Earlier Sunday an Israeli strike on a car near the Syrian border killed a man, a security source said, after overnight fire also in Lebanon's east wounded four people, a second security official said.

"Israeli aircraft targeted a vehicle in... Suwairi, killing its Syrian driver," the security source told AFP, requesting anonymity because of security concerns.

Lebanon's state-run National News Agency (NNA) said the driver killed by the strike had been delivering food in a car that belonged to a supermarket owner.

Images from the scene showed a blue vehicle shredded and burned, with a streak of blood on the ground nearby.

Overnight Saturday, Israeli jets struck a Hezbollah centre that had been deserted for some time in the Baalbek area, the second security source told AFP, adding four people were wounded.

- Dozens of rockets -

The strike at al-Osseira, about 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the Israel-Lebanon border, ended a period of relative calm that had lasted around 10 days.

The Israeli military said in a statement that its fighter jets "struck a Hezbollah manufacturing site containing weapons in the area of Baalbek", the main city in the Bekaa Valley.

Later, Hezbollah said it fired "more than 60 Katyusha-type rockets" at two Israeli military positions in the occupied Golan Heights in response to the Israeli strikes.

The Israeli military said "approximately 50 launches were identified from Lebanon toward northern Israel", but it did not indicate any victims or damage.

Hezbollah began near-daily attacks against Israel on October 8 in support of its Palestinian ally Hamas, whose attack on Israel triggered the war in Gaza. Both groups are backed by Israel's arch enemy Iran.

Hezbollah says it will only end its attacks on Israel if there is a ceasefire in Gaza.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant warned in February that a possible truce in Gaza would not affect Israel's "objective" of pushing Hezbollah back from its northern border, by force or diplomacy.

At least 326 people have been killed in Lebanon, most of them Hezbollah fighters but including more than 50 civilians, according to an AFP count.

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

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in southern Lebanon and northern Israel.

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