BEIRUT — The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah fired rockets with heavy warheads at towns in northern Israel, saying it used the weapons against civilian targets for the first time Thursday in retaliation for Israeli airstrikes the night before that killed nine, including what the group said were several paramedics.

There were no reports of Israelis hurt in the rocket attack, local media said. The Israeli military did not immediately offer comment on the rocket attack.

Since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza on Oct. 7, concerns have grown that near-daily clashes along the border between Israel and Lebanon could escalate into a full-scale war. Airstrikes and rocket fire Wednesday killed 16 Lebanese and one Israeli, making it the deadliest day of the current conflict.

Israel’s chief military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said Israel had killed 30 Hezbollah militants in the past week and had destroyed dozens of Hezbollah military sites in an effort to push the Iran-backed group away from the border.

The recent increase in violence has raised alarm in Washington and at the United Nations.

“Restoring calm along that border remains a top priority for President Biden and for the administration," White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters, saying the U.S. is closely monitoring developments. “We’ve also been very, very clear: We do not support a war in Lebanon.”

Kirby said the U.S. is working to halt the fighting through diplomatic efforts. This needs to be a top priority for Israel and Lebanon, he said, and would allow displaced civilians to return home. Tens of thousands of people on both sides have fled the fighting.

At around sunset Thursday, a barrage of Katyusha and Burkan rockets was fired toward the Israeli village of Goren and Shlomi, a statement from Hezbollah said. Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV said the group had not previously fired Burkan rockets at civilian targets, but was now responding to the recent spate of Israeli airstrikes.

Lebanon’s state media reported that 10 paramedics were among those killed Wednesday. The Israeli military said it struck targets for Hezbollah and an allied Sunni Muslim group.

Hezbollah has frequently used Russian-made portable anti-tank Kornet missiles in recent months. More rarely, it has launched Burkan rockets which, according to the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, can carry a warhead that weighs between 300 kilograms (660 pounds) and 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds).

Hezbollah says its attacks aim to keep some Israeli divisions busy and away from Gaza, and Nasrallah says attacks on the border will only stop when Israel halts its offensive in Gaza.

Gen. CQ Brown, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Thursday he has discussed with Israeli counterparts that Israel doesn’t need “to have a northern front that they have to deal with as they’re dealing with Gaza.” And he said he spoke with Lebanon’s chief of defense also, in an effort to do what the U.S. can to “help bring down the temperature.”

The U.N. peacekeeping force in south Lebanon known as UNIFIL said Thursday it was imperative that “this escalation cease immediately.”

“We urge all sides to put down their weapons and begin the process toward a sustainable political and diplomatic solution,” UNIFIL said. It added that the peacekeeping force remains ready to support that process in any way it can.

The fighting has killed nine civilians and 11 soldiers in Israel. More than 240 Hezbollah fighters and about 50 civilians have died in Lebanon.

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Associated Press writer Seung Min Kim in Washington and Melanie Lidman in Tel Aviv, Israel, contributed to this report.

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