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Israeli strike kills man who fed stray animals in south Lebanon

Hundreds of people have been killed in Lebanon in the border clashes, mainly Hezbollah fighters [Getty]

A man who frequently visited the south Lebanon border village he was displaced from to feed stray cats and dogs was killed in an Israeli airstrike on Sunday.

Rafiq Hassan Qassem died when Israel bombed the village of Ayta al-Shaab amid months-long fighting with Lebanon’s Hezbollah which broke out at the same time as the war on Gaza.

Ayta al-Shaab is one of dozens of villages near the frontier with Israel which was devastated by the fighting and whose residents have been displaced by the cross-border clashes since October last year.

Qassem was a mechanic and would frequently visit his abandoned village, taking with him food to feed cats and dogs left behind.

Social media users paid tribute to him on X, calling him a “humanitarian martyr” and a hero for his efforts in risking his life to help stray animals.

A second man identified as Hussein Yousef Saleh was also killed in the same strike on Sunday, which saw Israeli bombardment across different parts of south Lebanon resulting in further casualties and destruction.

As well as claiming at least 14 attacks on Israeli troops and positions on Sunday, Hezbollah fired several anti-tank missiles on what it said was an Israeli military building in the settlement of Margaliot in northern Israel on Monday.

The cross-border violence has killed at least 440 people in Lebanon, mostly Hezbollah fighters, but also 84 civilians, including children and journalists, according to an AFP tally.

Israel says that 14 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed on its side of the border, but Hezbollah believes the toll to be higher.

The clashes have escalated in tandem with Israel’s attack on the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

Hezbollah has carried out more advanced drone and missile strikes within Israeli territory, while Israel has intensified its aerial bombardment of southern Lebanon, occasionally striking deeper into Lebanese territory.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah movement has said that it will stop fighting once a ceasefire in Gaza is reached while Israel has linked a cessation in hostilities to a withdrawal of Hezbollah fighters to north of the Litani River – some 30 kilometres from the Lebanese-Israeli border.

Western-led negotiations for a diplomatic settlement to the current hostilities between the two parties appear to have stalled, with analysts saying a decision on the Lebanese front will become clear after Israel has concluded operations in Rafah.

Israel has threatened to carry out a full-scale attack against Hezbollah and invade Lebanon if diplomatic efforts fail, and Hezbollah has voiced readiness for such a scenario.

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