Israel says thwarted missile fire from Lebanon as Beirut takes airport precautions

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Israel’s military said on Saturday it had stopped a surface-to-air missile fired from Lebanon at one of its drones and the Lebanese authorities issued precautionary guidance in case it has to evacuate Beirut airport, as border tensions climb.

The Israeli army and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group in Lebanon have exchanged fire on a daily basis since the start of the Gaza conflict three weeks ago, the biggest flare-up on the Lebanese-Israeli frontier since the two sides fought a war in 2006.

In the 2006 conflict, runways at Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport, on the southern fringe of the Lebanese capital, were hit by Israeli ai strikes, along with other Lebanese infrastructure. The airport closed at the time.

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With tension ratcheting up again, the Lebanese authorities issued precautionary guidance for evacuating the airport and surrounding installations in case of emergency. But the guidance did not indicate that there was any imminent threat to the site.

The conflict in Gaza, where Israel has stepped up its ground offensive, has raised fears that fighting could expand more widely in the region, including the flashpoint Lebanese border.

Israel’s military said on Saturday it had “thwarted a surface-to-air missile that was fired from Lebanon” toward an Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

It said the military had responded by “striking the origin of the missile's fire.”

It also said one its drones had hit a “terrorist cell” in Lebanon which had tried to launch an anti-tank missile at Israel.

Lebanon’s Al-Manar television, which is run by Hezbollah, said Israel had shelled several areas along the western region of the border, including around the Lebanese coastal town of Naqoura and an area around Dhayra.

Hezbollah said that, as of Friday, 47 of its fighters had been killed in clashes along the frontier.

Israel’s army said earlier this week seven of its soldiers had been killed since October 7, when Palestinian group Hamas - which is an ally of Hezbollah - launched a deadly attack on Israeli soil and Israel responded with heavy strikes on Gaza.

Sources have previously said Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel were designed to keep Israel’s army occupied without provoking a major war. Israel has said it has no interest in waging war and that if Hezbollah is restrained it will maintain the status quo.

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