A motorist rides a motorcycle past the site of an Israeli strike
A motorist rides a motorcycle past the site of an Israeli strike on a vehicle in the Adloun plain area, between Lebanon's southern cities of Sidon and Tyre, on April 23, 2024. Image Credit: AFP

Beirut: The Israeli military said it struck about 40 sites linked to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, an apparent escalation of the near daily skirmishes between the two sides since the start of the war in Gaza.

The Israel Defence Forces said its rockets hit storage facilities, weaponry and "additional targets used by Hezbollah" in the area of Ayta ash Shab, a village near the Israel-Lebanon border. The barrage came a day after the Iran-backed militant group staged the deepest attack inside Israel since the conflict began in October.

There was no immediate response from Hezbollah or reports of any casualties.

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The US and European allies have long been concerned that tension between Israel and Hezbollah could evolve into a new front in the broader Middle East conflict, which has seen Israel clash with both Iran and its various proxy militias around the region.

A powerful Islamist group

Hezbollah, which like Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state, is the most powerful of those Islamist groups, which also include the Houthis in Yemen.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the army has already killed half of Hezbollah commanders in southern Lebanon and its goal is to restore border security and allow tens of thousands of evacuated residents to return home.

"We are dealing with a few alternatives to make this a reality, and the coming period will be decisive," he said in a video statement.

Hezbollah is thought to have more than 100,000 fighters, many of which are situated close to the border with Israel. The group has a far bigger and more sophisticated arsenal of missiles and other weapons than Hamas, which Israel is trying to destroy in retaliation for the October 7 deadly attacks on the south of the country.

On Tuesday, the Lebanese militia fired explosive-laden drones at two army bases on Israel's northern coast after Israeli strikes killed two of its key operatives, the farthest it has struck inside Israeli territory since the start of the Gaza war. Israel intercepted what it described as three "suspicious aerial targets" in the sea. Sirens sounded in several coastal cities including Acre.

Earlier on Wednesday, Hezbollah hit two houses with missiles fired toward Avivim, an Israeli settlement near the Lebanese border.