Israeli strike kills top Hezbollah commander in Lebanon


Hezbollah has said one of its top commanders was killed in an Israeli airstrike in southern Lebanon, prompting the Iranian-backed armed group to respond with a barrage of rockets into Israel.

Mohammed Nimah Nasser is the latest senior Hezbollah official to be targeted by Israel in nearly nine months of cross-border violence that has raised fears of all-out war.

Hezbollah said it had fired 100 rockets and missiles at Israeli military positions “as part of the response to the killing.” The Israeli military said some of the missiles that fell in open areas caused fires, but no injuries were reported.

The military said Nasser commanded Hezbollah’s Aziz unit, which is responsible for firing rockets from southwestern Lebanon, and accused him of directing a “large number of terrorist attacks.”

He was also described as “the counterpart” to Taleb Sami Abdullah, the commander of another unit whose death last month prompted Hezbollah to fire more than 200 rockets and missiles into northern Israel in a single day.

Smoke rises from the land near the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona after a rocket attack by Hezbollah (July 3, 2024)Smoke rises from the land near the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona after a rocket attack by Hezbollah (July 3, 2024)

Rockets fired by Hezbollah in response to the attack sparked fires in northern Israel (EPA)

Since then, diplomatic efforts have been made to defuse tensions, with the UN and US warning of the potentially catastrophic consequences of a war that could involve Iran and other allied groups.

Since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza on October 7, the day after the war began, there has been almost daily gunfights across the border between Israel and Lebanon.

Hezbollah has said it is acting in support of the Palestinian group, which is also backed by Iran. Both groups are considered terrorist organizations by Israel, the United Kingdom and other countries.

In recent weeks, Israeli officials have repeatedly warned that they will use military force to restore security along the northern border if diplomacy fails.

“We are hitting Hezbollah very hard every day and we will also reach a state of full readiness to take any required action in Lebanon, or to reach a settlement from a position of strength,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Wednesday. “We prefer a settlement, but if reality forces us, we will know how to fight.”

Hezbollah, heavily armed and long seen as a much stronger enemy of Hamas, has said it does not want all-out war with Israel and will abide by any ceasefire in Gaza in Lebanon.

“Israel can decide what it wants: limited war, total war, partial war,” the group’s deputy leader, Naim Qassem, told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday. “But it must expect that our response and our resistance will not fall within a ceiling and rules of engagement set by Israel.”

So far, more than 400 people have reportedly been killed in Lebanon, the vast majority of them Hezbollah fighters, and 25 people in Israel, mostly soldiers.

Tens of thousands of people from communities on both sides of the border have also been displaced.

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