Israel’s military will act to remove Hezbollah from the border with Lebanon if its attacks continue, an Israeli minister has warned.

Benny Gantz said the military would intervene if militants did not stop firing on northern Israel.

Time for a diplomatic solution was running out, he added.

Meanwhile, the head of Israel Defense Forces said troops were in “very high readiness” for more fighting in the north.

“Our first task is to restore security and the sense of security to the residents in the north, and this will take time,” Chief of the General Staff Lt Gen Herzi Halevi said, after conducting a “situational assessment”.

Cross-border exchanges of fire have been escalating since Hamas’s 7 October attacks on Israel.

On Wednesday, Hezbollah launched its highest number of cross-border attacks in a day since 8 October, security sources told Reuters.

It has led to concerns the conflict in Gaza could become wider across the region.

“The situation on Israel’s northern border demands change,” Mr Gantz told a press conference on Wednesday night.

“The stopwatch for a diplomatic solution is running out. If the world and the Lebanese government don’t act to prevent the firing on Israel’s northern residents and to distance Hezbollah from the border, the IDF will do it.”

Hezbollah – a Shia Muslim organisation – is designated a terrorist organisation by Western states, Israel, Gulf Arab countries and the Arab League.

Funded by Iran, it is one of the most heavily armed, non-state military forces in the world.

In 2006, a full-blown war between Hezbollah and Israel was triggered when Hezbollah carried out a deadly cross-border raid, with Israeli troops invading southern Lebanon.

At the border, there has been an increase in rocket fire and the use of weaponised drones by Hezbollah this week, with Israeli warplanes quick to respond.

State media in Lebanon reported on Wednesday that a Hezbollah fighter and two of his relatives had been killed in an Israeli air strike.

The attack reportedly hit a house in Bint Jbeil, a town about 2km (1.2 miles) from the border with Israel.

A Hezbollah statement said one of the victims, Ibrahim Bazzi, was an Australian citizen who was visiting his family.

More than 100 people have been killed in Lebanon since October – most of them Hezbollah fighters but civilians, including three journalists, are also among the dead.

On the Israeli side, at least four civilians and nine soldiers are known to have died on the Lebanon border since hostilities began. Thousands of civilians living in dozens of communities in the area have been evacuated by the army.

BBC/Adetutu Adetule

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