Hezbollah vows to intensify attacks on Israel after killing a senior military commander

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BEIRUT (AP) — Hezbollah vowed Wednesday to intensify its attacks along the Lebanon-Israel border to avenge Israel’s killing of its top military commander since the latest round of violence began eight months ago.

“Our response after Abu Taleb’s martyrdom will be to intensify our operations in severity, strength, quantity and quality,” senior Hezbollah official Hachem Saffieddine said at a funeral ceremony for Taleb Sami Abdullah. “Let the enemy wait for us on the battlefield.”

Earlier Wednesday, Hezbollah fired a large barrage of rockets into northern Israel, further escalating tensions as the fate of an internationally backed Gaza ceasefire plan hung in the balance.

Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed ally of the Palestinian Hamas group, traded fire with Israel almost every day since the war between Israel and Hamas began on October 7, and says it will only end if there is a ceasefire in Gaza. That has increased fears of a regional fire.

Abdullah, 55, was killed in an airstrike late Tuesday. On Wednesday afternoon, his coffin was taken to Hezbollah’s stronghold in southern Beirut. Hundreds of Hezbollah supporters and senior officials of the militant group attended the ceremony. The body was taken for burial in Abdullah’s hometown of Aadschit.

“It makes sense that Abu Taleb was a permanent target,” Saffieddine said, adding that Abdullah had participated in Hezbollah’s military operations, including the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006.

Air raid sirens sounded across northern Israel on Wednesday morning and the army said around 215 projectiles were fired from southern Lebanon – one of the largest attacks since the latest fighting began. There were no immediate reports of casualties. Some projectiles were intercepted, while others caused forest fires.

Hezbollah said it fired missiles and rockets at two military bases in retaliation for Abdullah’s killing.

The Israeli attack on Tuesday destroyed a house where Abdullah and three other officials met, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the border. The Israeli military said the attack was part of an attack on a Hezbollah command and control center used to carry out attacks on Israel in recent months.

“Abdullah was one of Hezbollah’s top commanders in southern Lebanon, who planned, promoted and carried out a large number of attacks against Israeli civilians,” the army said.

A Hezbollah official told The Associated Press that Abdullah was in charge of much of the Lebanon-Israeli front, including the area opposite the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona, which Hezbollah has attacked repeatedly in recent days.

The official, who was not authorized to speak to the media and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Abdullah had joined Hezbollah decades ago and participated in attacks on Israeli forces during their 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon, which ended in May 2000.

Another Hezbollah official, speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with regulations, said Abdullah was the commander of the group’s Nasr unit that controls parts of southern Lebanon close to the Israeli border.

More than 400 people have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon since October. most of them are Hezbollah fighters, but the dead also include more than seventy civilians and non-combatants. On the Israeli side, fifteen soldiers and ten civilians have been killed since the start of the war in Gaza.

Abdullah’s sister Zeinab said her brother had been seeking “martyrdom” for the past month, adding that his death will encourage more young men to join the militant group.

“May God destroy Israel,” she told the AP.

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