Israeli strike kills Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon group responds with drones

BEIRUT (Reuters) -An Israeli airstrike on a car in southern Lebanon killed four Hezbollah fighters on Thursday, security sources said, and the group said it retaliated by launching explosive drones at a military base in northern Israel.

Fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, running in parallel to the seven-month-long war in Gaza, has been the most intense since 2006.

Both sides stepped up their bombardments this week, fuelling concerns of a bigger war between the heavily-armed adversaries.

In Thursday's incident, security sources told Reuters that

four Hezbollah fighters were killed in an Israeli strike on a car in southern Lebanon. The civil defence said its rescue force had pulled four bodies out of a car that had been torched by an Israeli strike.

Hezbollah said it responded to the killing by launching explosive drones at an Israeli military command in northern Israel.

The Israeli military said it had identified several launches crossing from Lebanon. A number of hits in the area of Shlomi, a town near the border in the northwest corner of Israel, had caused a fire to break out. No injuries were reported, it said.

The military said it had also intercepted two drones within Lebanese territory and carried out strikes on southern Lebanon, including against what it said was Hezbollah infrastructure.

The exchanges of fire have uprooted tens of thousands of people on both sides of the border. In northern Israel, the displacement has prompted calls for firmer military action against Hezbollah.

Hezbollah has repeatedly said it will cease fire when the Israeli offensive in Gaza stops, but that it is also ready to fight on if Israel continues to attack Lebanon.

Israel has used artillery, drones and warplanes against targets in southern Lebanon, including Hezbollah and other armed groups. Fighters in Lebanon have launched rockets and their own drones into northern Israel.

(Reporting by Laila Bassam and Maya Gebeily, Additional reporting by Maytaal Angel, Editing by Angus MacSwan)