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8 Jan, 2024 18:37

Hezbollah commander killed in Lebanon

The group has claimed that an Israeli airstrike took out a senior leader of its elite commando unit
Hezbollah commander killed in Lebanon

A senior commander of Hezbollah’s elite special forces unit has been killed in an alleged Israeli airstrike in southern Lebanon, ratcheting up tensions as West Jerusalem’s war with Hamas threatens to expand to a second front.

Hezbollah’s military media office confirmed the death on Monday of Wissam al-Tawil, deputy head of the militant group’s secretive Radwan commando unit. He and another Hezbollah fighter were reportedly killed when a sport-utility vehicle in which they were riding was struck by a missile in the Lebanese town of Majdal Selm, about four miles north of the Israeli border.

Al-Tawil is the highest-level Hezbollah member to have been killed since Israel’s war with Hamas began on October 7. Cross-border violence has escalated in recent days; Hezbollah launched a missile attack on an Israeli intelligence base on Saturday, which came in response to a drone strike last week that killed Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri and six other people in a Beirut suburb.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed that it had carried out strikes on Monday against Hezbollah military targets in Lebanon. However, Israeli officials haven’t spoken specifically about the killings of al-Arouri and al-Tawil, in keeping with their policy regarding extraterritorial assassinations.

A video posted on social media purported to show the burned-out vehicle in which al-Tawil was riding. Hezbollah said he had died “on the road to Jerusalem,” a phrase used by the group for fighters killed by Israeli forces. The group also posted pictures of the deceased commander, including photos of him alongside senior Hezbollah leaders and top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated in a US drone strike in 2020.

US officials have insisted that they are working to prevent the Israel-Hamas war from escalating into a wider conflict. A secret US intelligence assessment found that Israeli forces would find it “difficult to succeed” in a two-front war against Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Washington Post reported on Sunday. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to meet with Israeli leaders this week in Tel Aviv as part of a nine-stop Middle East trip.

Al-Tawil’s Radwan unit had prepared for a potential cross-border attack against Israel, but those plans were reportedly suspended when Hamas fighters launched surprise raids on southern Israeli villages on October 7, triggering the region’s latest war.

West Jerusalem isn’t afraid to go to war with Iran-backed Hezbollah and Hamas at the same time, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told the Wall Street Journal in an article published on Sunday. “They see what is happening in Gaza,” he said. “They know we can copy-paste to Beirut.”