Fears of Mideast War Grow as Israel Hits Hezbollah Again

In wake of commander Wissam al-Tawil's death in Lebanon, renewed worries about entire region
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 8, 2024 7:46 AM CST
Hezbollah Commander Killed in Israeli Strike in Lebanon
Palestinians look at a car targeted by an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Sunday. Two journalists were killed in the strike, Hamza Dahdouh, who worked for Al Jazeera, and a freelance journalist, Mustafa Thuraya.   (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

An Israeli airstrike killed an elite Hezbollah commander in southern Lebanon on Monday, the latest in an escalating exchange of strikes along the border that have raised fears of another Mideast war, even as the fighting in Gaza exacts a mounting toll on civilians. The strike on an SUV killed a commander in a secretive Hezbollah force that operates along the border, according to a Lebanese security official. Hezbollah identified the slain fighter as Wissam al-Tawil without providing details, per the AP. He's the most senior militant in the armed group to have been killed since Hamas' Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel triggered all-out war in Gaza and lower-intensity fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, which has escalated since an Israeli strike killed a senior Hamas leader in Beirut last week.

Hezbollah began firing rockets shortly after Hamas' Oct. 7 attack ignited the war. Hamas and other militants killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel that day, mostly civilians, and took some 250 people hostage, more than 100 of whom were released during a ceasefire in November. A Hezbollah rocket barrage hit a sensitive air traffic base in northern Israel on Saturday in one of the biggest attacks in three months of low-intensity fighting along the border. The militant group said that was an "initial response" to the killing of Hamas' deputy political leader Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut last week. Hezbollah has said its attacks, which have driven tens of thousands of Israelis from their homes, aim to ease pressure on Gaza. Israeli leaders have expressed particular concern about the Radwan force, the elite Hezbollah unit in which al-Tawil was a commander, which operates along the border.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who's back in the region this week, appears to be trying to head off a wider conflict. Israel says it has largely wrapped up major operations in northern Gaza and is now focusing on the central region and the southern city of Khan Younis. Israeli officials have said the fighting will continue for many more months as the army seeks to dismantle Hamas and return scores of hostages taken during the militant group's Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war. The offensive has already killed more than 23,000 Palestinians, devastated vast swaths of the Gaza Strip, displaced nearly 85% of its population of 2.3 million, and left a quarter of its residents facing starvation. More here.

(More Hezbollah stories.)

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