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Fighting Turns Deadly on Both Sides of Israel-Lebanon Border, US House Decries Hamas Sexual Violence

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JERUSALEM, Israel – Tensions in northern Israel soared after a fierce Hezbollah rocket attack and Israeli counter-strikes, as talks for the release of the Hamas-held hostages have broken down again.

Israel struck heavily at Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon after a Hezbollah rocket barrage killed a female Israeli soldier and wounded nine others on Wednesday. Reports from Lebanon say 16 were killed there.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi declared, "We are not finishing this without returning the (Israeli) residents to Metulla and all the communities of the north with a very high level of security."

Some 80,000 Israelis were evacuated from their homes in the north four months ago. Halevi toured the northern area and announced Israel is preparing itself for war in the north.

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In the end, we will push back all the (Hezbollah) capabilities, it will be much quieter here, there will be much more stability here and then we will say to the residents 'you can return,'" Halevi insisted.

U.S. State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller indicated one of the primary U.S. objectives is preventing the spread of the war in Gaza to the Lebanese border.

" And we continue to believe that there is a diplomatic path forward. And we will continue to push forward to, try to resolve this issue diplomatically, so both Israelis and Lebanese can return to their homes.” 

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on a solidarity visit to Israel, says it's important to remember who is behind all the trouble.

"There is power behind the forces who came across these fence lines in Gaza. And I think too, today, of the struggle still in the north with Hezbollah, we should be mindful that what happened on October 7th is a symptom of the challenge that the Islamic Republic of Iran brings," Pompeo stated.

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Meanwhile, former captives and relatives of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza visited the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

They want prosecutors to charge and arrest Hamas leaders.

Sharon Kalderon is the sister-in-law of Ofer Kalderon, a hostage in Hamas captivity.

“We are hoping for justice. After October 7th we feel that there is no justice," she said. "The Hamas people, they hurt us, they murder us, they beat us, they raped us. We're here to make justice."

Doris Liber, the mother of another hostage, Guy Illuz, who also died at the hands of Hamas, warned, "If we don't stop this kind of evil, it will expand and it will get to any place, to every place. So first, and you know, at the top, is bringing in justice."

Talks to free the hostages broke down again with the State Department saying some Hamas demands are "non-starters," including resolving the status of the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem's Temple Mount.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas offered nothing new and he noted the dramatic rescue of two hostages earlier this week.

"This is also the key to the release of most of our hostages – strong military pressure, and very firm negotiations. And yes, I insist that Hamas drop their delusional demands – and when they drop these demands, we can move forward." 

In Washington, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, convened an event to raise awareness of Hamas' sexual violence against Israeli women on October 7th.

"I have never seen more sadistic evil perpetrated against another human than in the photos and videos we saw earlier this morning," Wasserman-Schultz stated.

She added, "The stories we heard were horrific and heart-breaking but it only deepens our conviction that we must draw attention to and secure justice for these victims of Hamas’ terror."

"Torture, genital mutilation, butchery, leaving women after they’ve been raped and tortured to die in a ditch – all while you see the images of Hamas terrorists laughing and bragging about it," Emhoff recounted. "This happened. This happened to these women. We have to shine a light. We have to shine a light on this gender-based violence that happened."

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a resolution Wednesday condemning rape and sexual violence by Hamas in its war against Israel.

Threats of more violence in the region remain high, and the battle for truth is raging while the battle on the ground remains.

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About The Author

Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel fulltime for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN – first as a graduate student in Journalism; then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91; and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. As a correspondent for CBN News, Julie has covered Israel’s wars with Gaza, rocket attacks on Israeli communities, stories on the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and