BEIRUT: Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati discussed “the situation in southern Lebanon and the region” in a phone call on Thursday with Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg.

The talks took place as several embassies in Lebanon reissued warnings to their citizens to neither stay in nor travel to Lebanon amid ongoing threats to expand the confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah.

Schallenberg addressed “international efforts aimed at stopping the Israeli attacks on Lebanon,” according to Mikati’s media office.

The Israeli military last week announced “plans for a broader attack in Lebanon.”

Mikati chaired a crucial meeting on Thursday which focused on “ways to support displaced persons and residents in the villages located behind the area exposed to Israeli attacks and how to respond to any emergency if it occurs,” according to Mikati’s office.

Interior, health, environment, and social affairs ministers, governors of the South and Nabatieh, the secretary-general of the Supreme Defense Council, the National Council for Scientific Research, and a representative from the Ministry of Education attended the talks.

The US Embassy warned its citizens in a statement on social media “against traveling to Lebanon due to the dangerous security situation,” adding that “conditions may change dramatically and rapidly.”

The Russian Embassy advised its citizens “to refrain from traveling to Lebanon until the situation in the southern part of the country calms down.”

The statement “is an old version of last year and is still ongoing,” said Russian Ambassador Alexander Rudakov.

“We advise our citizens not to come to Lebanon before the south settles down, and to the citizens there, we have left them the option of staying or leaving.”

European countries have also warned their nationals against heading to Lebanon, while the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry has evacuated its citizens.

Israeli Channel 12 quoted a source in the Israeli military as saying that Tel Aviv might be forced to take a highly offensive step in Lebanon.

It said the army had begun training soldiers transferred north in preparation for “combat in a complex environment and populated areas.”

The Israeli source confirmed “a decision to transfer forces from the Gaza Strip to the north,” noting that “officials are aware that tensions in the north are escalating.”

The US had previously expressed concern “about the outbreak of a comprehensive war with Lebanon.”

Despite diplomatic efforts, confrontations have intensified between Hezbollah and Israel after the assassination of a senior Hezbollah field commander, Taleb Abdullah, two weeks ago.

Israeli warplanes struck Aitaroun at noon, destroying a house. No injuries were reported. The area — abandoned by its residents — is subjected to daily Israeli strikes.

Another raid was carried out on the border town of Houla.

An Israeli combat drone targeted and killed a motorcyclist on the road to Sohmor in western Beqaa.

Israeli aircraft flew at a low altitude over the Nabatieh and Iqlim Al-Tuffah regions, creating a loud sonic boom by breaking the sound barrier in two waves.

An Israeli drone targeted a residential building in Nabatieh, injuring over 20 residents in the Mashaa neighborhood. Members of a displaced family from the border town of Taybeh were among the wounded.

The raid, the first in the area in eight months, caused panic, shattering the doors and windows of nearby houses.

Mohammed Mehdi, a local resident, told Arab News on Thursday that the neighborhood had been turned into a war zone after the raid, which damaged many houses, buildings, roads, and cars.

Mehdi said the exploded missiles caused holes and cracks in the walls of houses and balconies in nearby neighborhoods.

The emergency department at Sheikh Ragheb Harb Hospital in Toul treated about 22 people for moderate and minor injuries sustained during the raid.
Most left the hospital, while two patients were kept in for follow-up checks, said the hospital’s public relations official, Raif Dia.

Sirens sounded in Ras Al-Naqoura and towns in Western Galilee “after a suspected infiltration of a drone from Lebanon.”

Israeli media later reported that “the drone launched from southern Lebanon fell without being intercepted in the area of ​​the Shlomi settlement.”