Israeli Strike Kills a Senior Hezbollah Commander in South Lebanon

By Laila Bassam and Christian Lowe

 – An Israeli strike killed one of Hezbollah’s top commanders in south Lebanon on Wednesday, prompting retaliatory rocket fire by the Iran-backed group into Israel as their dangerously poised conflict rumbled on.

The Israeli military said it had struck and eliminated Hezbollah’s Mohammed Nasser, calling him commander of a unit responsible for firing from southwestern Lebanon at Israel.

Nasser, killed by an airstrike near the city of Tyre in southern Lebanon, was the one of the most senior Hezbollah commanders to die yet in the conflict, two security sources in Lebanon said.

Sparked by the Gaza war, the hostilities have raised concerns about a wider and ruinous conflict between the heavily armed adversaries, prompting U.S. diplomatic efforts aimed at deescalation.

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Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said Israeli forces were hitting Hezbollah “very hard every day” and will be ready to take any action necessary against the group, though the preference is to reach a negotiated arrangement.

Hezbollah began firing at Israeli targets at the border after its Palestinian ally Hamas launched the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, declaring support for the Palestinians and saying it would cease fire when Israel stops its Gaza offensive.

Hezbollah announced at least two attacks in response to what it called “the assassination”, saying it launched 100 Katyusha rockets at an Israeli military base and its Iranian-made Falaq missiles at another base in the town of Kiryat Shmona near the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Israel’s Channel 12 broadcaster reported that dozens of rockets were fired into northern Israel from Lebanon. There were no reports of casualties. The Israeli Defence Ministry said that air raid sirens sounded in several parts of northern Israel.

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Israel’s military did not give a number of rockets launched but said most of them fell in open areas, some were intercepted, while a number of launches fell in the area of Kiryat Shmona.

It added that no injuries were reported but firefighters were working to extinguish a number of fires that were ignited by the rocket attack.

Following the rocket salvos, it said, Israeli fighter jets struck a Hezbollah launcher that was used to fire the barrages toward Israel as well as two additional launchers.

The sources in Lebanon said Nasser was responsible for a section of Hezbollah’s operations at the frontier. One of the sources said a second Hezbollah fighter and a civilian were also killed.

Nasser was of the same rank and importance as Taleb Abdallah, a top commander who was killed by an Israeli strike in June, prompting Hezbollah to fire its largest barrages of drones and rockets yet in retaliation, the sources said.

The Israeli military statement said Nasser and Abdallah “served as two of the most significant Hezbollah terrorists in southern Lebanon”.

Senior Hezbollah politician Hassan Fadlallah said Nasser had known he was a target but had not left the battlefield in nine months. Hezbollah would inflict its “punitive response” on Israel for “its crime, so that this enemy understands that the arm of the resistance is long”, he said.

The hostilities have inflicted a heavy toll on both sides of the frontier, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

Israeli attacks in Lebanon have killed more than 300 Hezbollah fighters and 87 civilians, according to Reuters tallies. Israel says fire from Lebanon has killed 18 soldiers and 10 civilians.

(Reporting by Laila Bassam in Beirut, Maayan Lubell and Steven Scheer in Jerusalem and Jana Choukeir in Dubai; Writing by Maya Gebeily and Tom Perry; Editing by Alex Richardson, Gareth Jones, William Maclean)

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