Hezbollah rains rockets on Israel after strike kills commander

AFP , Wednesday 12 Jun 2024

Lebanese militant group Hezbollah fired barrages of rockets at Israel on Wednesday and vowed to intensify its attacks after an Israeli strike killed a senior commander in south Lebanon the previous day.

Israel Hezbollah
An Israeli flag flutters next to a fire burning in an area near the border with Lebanon, northern Israel in Safed. AP


Hezbollah has traded near-daily cross-border fire with the Israeli army since the Israeli war on Gaza started.

The exchanges have escalated in recent weeks, with Hezbollah stepping up its use of drones to attack Israeli military positions and Israel hitting back with targeted strikes against the militants.

"We will increase the intensity, strength, quantity and quality of our attacks," said senior Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine, speaking at the funeral of commander Taleb Sami Abdallah, who was killed in Tuesday's Israeli strike.

In Doha, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken renewed calls Wednesday for a diplomatic solution on the Israel-Lebanon border and said a long-sought Gaza ceasefire deal would "take a tremendous amount of pressure out of the system".

Hezbollah in statements said it launched "dozens of Katyusha rockets" at three bases and a barracks in northern Israel.

The Iran-backed militant group said it also struck a "military factory" with guided missiles "in response to the assassination carried out by the Zionist enemy".

The Israeli army said more than 150 "projectiles" had been fired from Lebanon in three successive barrages.

"Approximately 90 projectiles were identified crossing from Lebanon," it said, adding several were intercepted but others struck inside Israel, sparking fires in parts of the north.

The initial barrage was followed by a second of about 70 projectiles and a third of around 10, the military said, adding the army struck several sites in south Lebanon in response.

'Knight of the resistance'

As temperatures have soared in recent days, the exchanges of fire have sparked brush fires on both sides of the border.

"Israel Fire and Rescue Services are currently operating to extinguish the fires that broke out as a result of the launches," the military said.

Israel's Magen David Adom emergency medical service said there were no immediate reports of casualties.

The Israeli army on Wednesday confirmed it had "eliminated" Taleb Sami Abdallah in a strike the day before on a Hezbollah command centre in southern Lebanon.

In a statement, it called Abdallah "one of Hezbollah's most senior commanders in southern Lebanon" and said he "planned, advanced, and carried out a large number of terror attacks against Israeli civilians".

Abdallah was killed along with three Hezbollah comrades in an Israeli strike on Jouaiyya, 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the border, a source close to the group told AFP.

A Lebanese military source said the commander was "the most important in Hezbollah to be killed... since the start of the war".

The group had urged its supporters to attend Abdallah's funeral in the southern suburbs of Beirut, describing him as "one of the knights of the resistance".

Men wearing military fatigues and black berets carried his coffin, covered in Hezbollah's yellow flag, as a brass band played for the ceremony.

'Harsh blow'

Pro-Hezbollah newspaper Al-Akhbar described the strike that killed Abdallah as "a harsh blow" to the group.

But Britain-based Middle East specialist Amal Saad played down the prospect of wider escalation.

"I don't think that the death of this highest-ranking commander is going to change any of Hezbollah's calculations," she said, adding civilian casualties were "red lines" for the group rather than the targeting of commanders or fighters.

On Tuesday, Hezbollah said it fired about 50 rockets at Israeli positions in the annexed Golan Heights.

More than eight months of cross-border violence has killed at least 468 people in Lebanon, most of them fighters but also including 89 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

Israeli authorities say at least 15 Israeli soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced on both sides of the border since the Israeli war on Gaza erupted.

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