Israel announced on Friday that it would evacuate over 22,000 residents from its northern city of Kiryat Shmona following heavy clashes with Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah, a militant group, reported Reuters.

“This kind of evacuation, which has already been done in a number of towns on the northern border, allows the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] to expand its operational freedom to act against the Hezbollah terrorist organisation,” said Israel’s chief military spokesperson Rear-Admiral Daniel Hagari.

Areas around the Israel-Lebanon border have been seeing clashes since Israel declared war on Gaza nearly two weeks ago. Tel Aviv had earlier categorised some areas along the Lebanon border as closed military zones and the National Emergency Management Authority was working to evacuate all communities from the regions.

The Israeli military had said that it carried out a several attacks against Hezbollah infrastructure, including observation posts, reported the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese Army said that a journalist was killed by Israeli gunfire on Thursday.

“We reaffirm that the killing of civilians and the assault on the security of our country will not go without response or punishment,” Hezbollah had said.

The Israeli Air Force said that it was ready to repel attacks by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen. “Israel has some of the world’s best air defenses, and is prepared for threats like these,” said the spokesperson, reported The Times of Israel.

Hagari also stated that the military was carrying out retaliatory airstrikes in Gaza “at a rate that has not been seen for decades”. He said that they struck over 100 targets in airstrikes, including one that killed Amjad Majed Muhammad Abu ‘Odeh, a member of Hamas’s naval forces.

Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stated that the country did not have plans to maintain control over civilians in Gaza, according to AP.

He said that Israel is expecting a three-phase war. The first phase, which is ongoing, is seeing airstrikes and ground manoeuvres. In the second phase, the military would eliminate pockets of resistance, and in the last phase, Israel would cease “responsibility for life in the Gaza Strip”.

The conflict between Tel Aviv and Gaza began on October 7 after Hamas launched a multi-pronged attack on Israel. In response, Israel declared a siege on Gaza and launched a series of airstrikes. It also stopped water, fuel and power supplies to the region’s 2.3 million residents.

Israel has said that 1,400 of its citizens have been killed in attacks launched from Gaza, and 199 persons have been taken hostage. Palestinian authorities have said that over 3,400 persons have been killed and over 12,000 injured in Israeli air attacks on Gaza.

On Tuesday, hundreds of people died in a massive blast at the Al-Ahli al-Arabi Hospital in Gaza city. While the authorities in Gaza said that an Israeli air strike caused the explosion, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad.

Islamic Jihad denied Netanyahu’s claims about its involvement and accused Israel of “trying hard to evade responsibility for the brutal massacre it committed”.