Hezbollah lobs rockets at Israel as U.S. accuses Hamas of prolonging Gaza war

DOHA, Qatar - Hezbollah bombarded northern Israel with rockets and artillery shells Wednesday, threatening to further embattle Israel on its northern front as the war in Gaza drags on, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accusing Hamas of making unworkable demands during cease-fire negotiations.

“It’s time for the haggling to stop and the cease-fire to start,” Blinken told reporters at a news conference in Qatar.

Hezbollah’s attack, which the Israel Defense Forces said involved at least two waves of some 170 projectiles, represented a major escalation in the simmering battle on Israel’s northern border that has consistently threatened to explode into all-out war. It came in retaliation for an Israeli airstrike Tuesday in southern Lebanon that killed a senior Hezbollah commander. Israel did not report any casualties in the rocket attacks.

The escalation comes at a fraught time for Israel as it faces mounting global pressure to wind down its war in the Gaza Strip, with negotiations for a cease-fire appearing to reach a fork in the road. Hamas submitted a response Tuesday to a U.S.-backed cease-fire proposal; the response asked for reassurances about an end to the war, according to an official with knowledge of the talks. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing diplomatic effort.

The official said Hamas’s response contained “amendments to the Israeli proposal, including a timeline for a permanent cease-fire and the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip.”

Blinken said Hamas proposed “numerous changes” to the plan announced by President Biden late last month.

“Some of the changes are workable, some are not,” Blinken said in remarks in Doha alongside Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani. Qatar and the United States have mediated negotiations between Hamas and Israel as the parties work toward a deal that could facilitate the release of the dozens of hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and end Israel’s war there.


The deal on the table is “virtually identical” to one proposed by Hamas on May 6, Blinken said, but the militant group is now asking for a number of changes.

“Hamas could have answered with a single word: Yes. Instead, Hamas waited nearly two weeks and then proposed more changes, a number of which go beyond positions that it had previously taken and accepted,” Blinken said. He questioned whether Hamas was “proceeding in good faith or not.”

National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One that the United States has reviewed the contents of Hamas’s response and will now work with mediators, specifically Egypt and Qatar, to “bridge final gaps.”

“Many of the proposed changes are minor and not unanticipated. Others differ more substantively from what was outlined in the U.N. Security Council resolution,” Sullivan said. “Our aim is to bring this process to a conclusion,” Sullivan added.

Hamas has described its response to the proposal as “positive.”

Israel, for its part, had also appeared to be dragging its feet on the deal. Biden announced the proposal as an Israeli one, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu subsequently distanced himself from it under pressure from his right flank not to accept the deal.

Mediators fear that any Hamas amendments to the current deal will be framed by Israel as a rejection, said Aaron David Miller, a longtime U.S. diplomat now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. If Hamas doesn’t reject the deal, “Netanyahu is counting on Hamas to say ‘yes, but’ in a way that is deemed unreasonable,” he said.

Mediators are hoping to delay conversations about more complicated questions of how to end the war in Gaza by getting the two sides to at least agree to the first phase of the deal, which would include a six-week cease-fire and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from heavily populated areas of Gaza; the freeing of all women, elderly people and children held hostage in return for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails; the return of displaced Palestinians to their homes throughout Gaza; and a surge in humanitarian aid to the starving enclave.

“The logic of the Biden administration is that if the two sides can agree to phase one, the six weeks of quiet will be an incentive to continue,” Miller said.

The Israeli strike Tuesday on the southern Lebanese town of Jwaya killed Talib Abdallah, along with three other Hezbollah members, the group announced. It was the first time since January that Hezbollah had acknowledged the killing of one of its commanders. In his eulogy, he was described as a hero of the month-long 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war.

At the funeral, Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine vowed to increase operations “in intensity, strength, quantity and quality” in retaliation.

The Israeli military confirmed Abdallah’s killing in a Telegram post Wednesday, describing him as “one of Hezbollah’s most senior commanders in southern Lebanon” and saying he was responsible for planning and carrying out “a large number” of attacks against Israeli civilians.

A biography released by Hezbollah on Wednesday said Abdallah, 55, joined the movement in 1984 and was among the fighters the group sent to the Bosnia War in the early 1990s. He played key roles in the group’s battles against Israel, including during the 2006 war, and more recently led military operations against Israel along a stretch of the Lebanese-Israeli border, the biography said. A person close to Hezbollah, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, called Abdallah “very important” to the movement.

Hezbollah, in a statement Wednesday, said it targeted Israel’s Meron Air Base with rocket and artillery fire in retaliation. Netanyahu said he was holding a security assessment in light of the “developments in the north, and Hamas’s negative response regarding the release of the hostages,” according to the Times of Israel.

According to a Washington Post tally, Israeli strikes have killed more than 300 Hezbollah members in Lebanon since Oct. 7, as well as 87 civilians and noncombatants.

The Israeli military has repeatedly said it is ready to launch an operation into Lebanon to push back Hezbollah forces from the border at any time.

Here’s what to know

- Almost 3,000 malnourished children in southern Gaza are at risk of dying after recent violence cut them off from treatment, the U.N. children’s agency warned. UNICEF said Tuesday that the numbers represent about three-quarters of the children who were believed to be receiving “life-saving care” in the south before Israel launched its operation in the city of Rafah. The agency added that the deteriorating levels of aid access in the south meant that more children could fall ill with malnutrition. Humanitarian groups have previously warned of the risk of famine in northern Gaza.


- A U.N. inquiry said Israel has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza. The report, which the U.N. human rights office said was the first in-depth U.N. investigation of events on and since Hamas’s attack on Oct. 7, also found that Palestinian armed groups carried out war crimes in Israel. Last month, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor announced he was seeking arrest warrants against senior Israeli and Hamas officials for crimes committed in the war.

- At least 37,202 people have been killed and 84,932 injured in Gaza since the war started, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and it says 298 soldiers have been killed since the launch of its military operations in Gaza.

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Bisset reported from London, El Chamaa reported from Beirut, George reported from Dubai and Pietsch reported from Washington. Kareem Fahim in Istanbul and Suzan Haidamous in Beirut contributed to this report.