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Israel launches deadly Gaza strikes, says ready for new truce talks

NABATIEH, Lebanon: Lebanese school children on a minibus had a narrow escape Thursday when a drone strike killed a Hezbollah fighter in the car ahead, blowing out the windscreen of their vehicle and wounding three pupils.
The injured children were hospitalized with cuts from flying glass after the aerial attack, which state media and a source close to the Iran-backed militant group blamed on Israel.
“At first, we didn’t understand what was happening, and there was panic among the children,” said Ahmad Qubaisi, 57, who was driving the bus with 18 children on board.
“Suddenly a strike hit the car in front of us” near the town of Nabatiyeh, about 13 kilometers (eight miles) from the Israeli border, he said.
“The bus’s windshield shattered… I backed up and that’s when the second strike hit the car” in front of him, Qubaisi added.
The source close to Hezbollah told AFP that Israel was behind the strike, which killed a Hezbollah member who was named as Mohammad Ali Nasser Farran.
The attack was the latest in months of violence that has upended lives on both sides of the Lebanon-Israel frontier as the Israel-Hamas war has raged in Gaza.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah, an ally of Palestinian militant group Hamas, has traded near daily cross-border fire with Israel since the October 7 attack on southern Israel.
In the more than seven months since then, at least 429 people have been killed in Lebanon, mostly militants but also including 82 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israel says 14 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed on its side of the border.
Despite the fatalities, both sides have so far calibrated the intensity and range of their strikes in efforts to avoid an all-out war between the two countries.
At the site of Thursday’s strike, an AFP photographer saw the charred car and blood stains on the road.
Lebanon’s official National News Agency reported “an enemy drone attack in the morning on the Kfardjal-Nabatiyeh road.”
The attack “killed a car driver” and “wounded three pupils” who were in a bus heading to school, it said.
One of the children, 11-year-old Mohammed Nasser, was lying on a bed in the Nabatiyeh government hospital, a bandage on his bruised forehead.
“The glass shattered… and the car in front of us was burning,” the boy recalled.
Fearing more strikes, he said, “we put our schoolbags on our heads.”
Standing beside him, his aunt showed AFP his blood-stained school uniform.
The boy’s father, Ali Nasser, said that “I was working in my field when my brother-in-law called telling me my son had been injured.”
“Fortunately, his injuries are not serious,” he added.
A Nabatiyeh school later said that the man killed, Farran, was also a physics teacher at the school and that it mourned his death.
Later Thursday, Hezbollah said it had launched dozens of rockets at a base in northern Israel.
It said its katyusha barrage was “in response to the assassination carried out by the enemy in Kafardjal, and the injuring and terrorizing of children.”

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