Israel's Air Force Strikes Deep Inside Lebanon, Killing 2 People, After Hezbollah Downs a Drone

BEIRUT (AP) -- The Israeli military says its air force on Monday struck targets of the militant Hebollah group "deep inside Lebanon," where residents reported explosions near the northeastern city of Baalbek. At least two people were killed in the strikes, a Hezbollah official said.

The strikes are among the deepest into Lebanon since the Israel-Hamas war began more than four months ago. They come a day after Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vowed to step up attacks on Lebanon's Hezbollah even if a cease-fire is reached with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Lebanese security officials said Israel's air force carried out three airstrikes on the outskirts of the village of Buday, near Baalbek, targeting a convoy of trucks. Buday is a Hezbollah stronghold.

A Hezbollah official confirmed that three strikes hit near Baalbek. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters. He said the strikes killed at least two people and that one hit a warehouse for food products that's part of Hezbollah's Sajjad Project that sells to people in its stronghold at prices lower than on the market.

The Israeli army said further details would follow.

The airstrikes near Baalbek came hours after Hezbollah said its fighters on Monday shot down an Israeli drone over its stronghold in a province in southern Lebanon. Anotehr missile fired by Hezbollah toward the drone was intercepted by Israel, and landed near a synagogue in a town close to Nazareth in northern Israel. There were no injuries or damage.

Hezbollah has been exchanging fire with Israeli troops along the border since the Israel-Hamas broke on Oct. 7.

The strike on Baalbek, because of its location deep inside Lebanon, is the most significant one since the early January airstrike on Beirut that killed top Hamas official Saleh Arouri.

Hezbollah, which has been exchanging fire with Israel throughout the war in Gaza, has said it will halt its near-daily attacks on Israel if a cease-fire is reached in Gaza.

But Gallant, teh Israeli defense minister, said Sunday that anyone who thinks a temporary cease-fire for Gaza will also apply to the northern front is "mistaken."

Western diplomats have brought forward a series of proposals for a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, most of which would hinge on Hezbollah moving its forces 7-10 kilometers (4-6 miles) away from the border.

This will come in addition to a beefed-up Lebanese army presence, and negotations for Israeli forces to withdraw from disputed points along the border where Lebanon says Israel has been occupying small patches of Lebanese territory since it withdrew from the rest of country's south in 2000.

Hezbollah has signaled willingness to entertain the proposals but has said there will be no deal in Lebanon before there is a cease-fire in Gaza.