Hezbollah leader meets with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad officials for first time since Israel-Hamas war erupted

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BEIRUT (AP) — The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group held talks on Wednesday in Beirut with senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad figures in a key meeting of three top anti-Israel militant groups amid the war raging in Gaza.

In neighboring Syria, meanwhile, state media said an Israeli airstrike hit the international airport in the northern city of Aleppo on Wednesday, damaging its runway and putting it out of service.

There was no immediate comment from Israel on the reported strike.

READ MORE: What is Hezbollah? What to know about its origins, structure and history

Following the meeting in Lebanon, a brief statement said Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah agreed with Hamas’ Saleh al-Arouri and Islamic Jihad’s leader Ziad al-Nakhleh on the next steps that the three — along with other Iran-backed militants — should take at this “sensitive stage” in the Middle East.

Their goal, according to the statement carried on Hezbollah-run and Lebanese state media, was to achieve “a real victory for the resistance in Gaza and Palestine” and halt Israel’s “treacherous and brutal aggression against our oppressed and steadfast people in Gaza and the West Bank”.

No other details were provided. The meeting came as the war between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, is now in its third week. The fighting, triggered by Hamas’ deadly incursion into Israel on Oct. 7 that killed more than 1,400 people in Israel, has killed more than 5,700 Palestinians in Gaza.

As the Gaza death toll spirals, tensions have also been rising along the tense Lebanon-Israel border, where Hezbollah members have been exchanging fire with Israeli troops since the day after Hamas’ rampage into Israel.

For now, those exchanges remain limited to a handful of border towns and Hezbollah and Israeli military positions on both sides. Lebanese army soldiers and United Nations peacekeeping forces have deployed in large numbers.

Dozens of Hezbollah fighters have been killed in the clashes so far, the group says, while the Israeli military has also announced some deaths among its ranks.

READ MORE: 5 Hezbollah fighters are killed as tensions flare along the border between Lebanon and Israel

Nasrallah has yet to publicly speak about the war in Gaza and clashes along the Lebanon-Israel border. However, other Hezbollah top officials have warned Israel against its planned ground invasion into the besieged territory.

Israeli officials have said they would retaliate aggressively in case of a cross-border attack by Hezbollah from Lebanon.

“We will cripple it with a force it cannot even imagine, and the consequences for it and the Lebanese state (will be) devastating,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said while visiting Israeli troops along the border with Lebanon on Sunday.

Lebanon’s cash-strapped caretaker government, along regional and international figures, has been scrambling to keep the country out of the war.

Hezbollah and Israel fought a monthlong war in 2006 that ended in a tense stalemate. Israel sees Iran-backed Hezbollah as its most serious threat, estimating it has some 150,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel.

In its report on the airstrike on Syria’s Aleppo, the state-run SANA news agency cited an unnamed military official as saying the strike came from the west, over the Mediterranean Sea near the coastal city of Lattakia. The report did not mention any casualties.

If confirmed, the attack would be the fourth time Israel has targeted the airport in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and financial hub, since the onset of the latest Israel-Hamas war.

The first attack took place on Oct. 12, when Israeli missiles struck international airports in both Aleppo and Syria’s capital of Damascus, putting them both out of commission. The Aleppo airport was later repaired.

Israel targets airports and sea ports in government-held parts of Syria in an apparent attempt to prevent arms shipments from Iran to militants backed by Tehran, including Hezbollah. Thousands of Iran-backed fighters from around the region joined Syria’s 12-year civil war, helping tip the balance in favor of President Bashar Assad’s forces.

Israel has carried out hundreds of such strikes in recent years, including on the Damascus and Aleppo airports, but rarely acknowledges or discusses the operations.

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