Home News Israel kills senior Hezbollah commander, Hezbollah responds with rocket fire

Israel kills senior Hezbollah commander, Hezbollah responds with rocket fire

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Israeli forces launched a drone strike in southern Lebanon on Wednesday that killed a senior Hezbollah commander, prompting Lebanese militias to retaliate by firing heavy rockets across the border.

The clash comes as Western diplomats try to avert an all-out war between Israel and Hezbollah, a danger that appears to have grown in recent weeks as cross-border fighting intensifies and Israeli officials publicly talk of shifting their military focus away from Hamas in the Gaza Strip and toward threatening the more advanced and powerful Hezbollah.

Amos Hochstein, a senior White House adviser who has become the de facto U.S. envoy for de-escalation between Israel and Hezbollah, held talks with French officials in Paris on Wednesday to discuss ways to ease escalating tensions. Among those Hochstein met was Jean-Yves Le Drian, President Emmanuel Macron’s special envoy to Lebanon, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic issues.

The Israeli military said the drone strike killed Mohammed Naameh Nasser, also known as Abu Naameh, one of the highest-ranking Hezbollah fighters killed in the nearly nine-month conflict, according to a senior Lebanese intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue. He said Nasser had led Hezbollah’s Aziz Force, one of the group’s main fighting forces along the Lebanese border.

Hezbollah confirmed his death, though it did not specify how he died, but the group said it fired 100 rockets at military targets along the border in an “initial response,” and sirens rang across communities in northern Israel. The Israeli military said most of the rockets landed in open areas, but Hezbollah has been claiming retaliatory attacks at night.

A photo of Mohammed Naameh Nasser released by Hezbollah media.Credit…Hezbollah Media Relations Office, courtesy of the Associated Press

Hezbollah, which has close ties to Iran, has been working in solidarity with Hamas and has significantly increased the frequency of regular attacks on northern Israel since the Gaza war began last October. Israel has launched retaliatory attacks on Lebanon.

Mr Naameh was killed in a drone strike in the west coast region of Tyre, the latest in a series of attacks. Israeli assassinations Lebanese Hezbollah commander. one Last month, it led to upgrade The Biden administration has since struggled to contain the fighting. With tensions already high, analysts and Western diplomats warn that tit-for-tat strikes could lead to further escalation.

Amal Saad, a lecturer at Cardiff University who studies Hezbollah, said the powerful militia would not allow itself to be drawn into an all-out war by killing people, but Recent threats from Israeli officials There is no way to stop Hezbollah from responding with force.

“I don’t think Hezbollah will take this lightly,” Ms. Saad said, adding that the rocket attack was just “a small foreshadowing of future events.”

The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah has so far been relatively mild, but the fighting has displaced more than 150,000 people on both sides. Analysts say an all-out war would likely be catastrophic, with large swathes of Lebanon reduced to ruins, Hezbollah launching precision-guided missiles at cities across Israel and potentially sparking a wider regional war involving Iran. Seeking a ceasefire with Hamas Israeli security officials said this was to prevent a larger war from breaking out in Lebanon.

U.S. officials have been working for months to prevent a war between Israel and Hezbollah. On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israel has “effectively lost” sovereignty near its border with Lebanon as Hezbollah attacks from across the border have forced large numbers of residents to flee their homes. About 60,000 Israelis have fled the area, many of whom have been living in hotels in Tel Aviv for the past nine months.

Blinken noted in his speech on Monday that Hezbollah had said it would stop firing on Israel if there was a ceasefire in Gaza, which he said “underscores why a ceasefire in Gaza is so important.”

Ceasefire talks have been deadlocked since June, but officials said Wednesday that mediators were working to restart negotiations by focusing on terms based on a proposal backed by the United Nations and the United States.

Israel and Hamas have been negotiating for months through mediators including Qatar and Egypt on a potential deal for a three-phase ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and the release of the remaining 120 hostages, both living and dead, held in the Gaza Strip. However, the two sides remain far apart on key issues.

Last Tuesday, Qatar sent Hamas potential revisions to the proposed deal in an effort to win its support, according to two senior officials from different countries involved in the talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations.

But major obstacles remain: Hamas, which controlled Gaza before the conflict, wants an end to the war and a full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, while Israel has vowed to continue fighting until Hamas is eliminated and seeks control over Gaza’s post-war security.

Current and former Israeli security officials say the country’s top generals want a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, even if Hamas remains in power for now. As the war drags on, Israeli generals believe their army is stretched thin in terms of both soldiers and ammunition. They believe the army needs time to recover if a ground war with Hezbollah breaks out. Officials said.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant said on Wednesday that the Israeli military is ready to take any necessary action against Hezbollah but that they prefer a diplomatic solution.

“We are striking hard at Hezbollah every day, and we are fully prepared to take whatever action is necessary in Lebanon or reach an agreement from a position of strength,” Galant’s office said in a statement.

He added: “We prefer one arrangement over the other, but if reality forces us, we know how to fight.”

Michael Crowley, Ronan Bergman, Alan Boxman, Patrick Kingsley and Johnson Rice Contributed reporting.

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