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Hizbollah rains rockets on Israel after strike kills commander

By AFP - Jun 13,2024 - Last updated at Jun 13,2024

Fires burn the vegetation after rockets launched from southern Lebanon landed on the outskirts of Safed, in upper Galilee, on Wednesday (AFP photo)

BEIRUT — Lebanese militant group Hizbollah 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.

Hizbollah has traded near-daily cross-border fire with Israeli forces since its Palestinian ally Hamas attacked southern Israel on October 7, triggering war in the Gaza Strip.

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

"We will increase the intensity, strength, quantity and quality of our attacks," said senior Hizbollah 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".

Hizbollah said that in "response to the assassination carried out by the Zionist enemy", it launched six attacks with Katyusha rockets or heavy-duty Burkan missiles at military positions and bases in northern Israel, also striking a "military factory" with guided missiles.

The Iran-backed fighter group in separate statements also claimed more than 10 other attacks on Israeli troops and positions on Wednesday, including one with drones.

 

The Israeli forces 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.

‘Important’ commander

“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 forces on Wednesday confirmed it had “eliminated” Taleb Sami Abdallah in a strike the day before on a Hizbollah command centre in southern Lebanon.

In a statement, it called Abdallah “one of Hizbollah’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 from the border, a source close to the group told AFP.

A Lebanese military source said the commander was “the most important in Hizbollah 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 Hizbollah’s yellow flag, as a brass band played for the ceremony.

‘Harsh blow’

Pro-Hizbollah newspaper Al Akhbar described the strike that killed Abdallah as “a harsh blow” to the group.

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 Hizbollah’s calculations,” she said, adding civilian casualties were “red lines” for the group rather than the targeting of commanders or fighters.

“We witnessed an escalation in quality and quantity of [Hizbollah] attacks in order to put pressure on Israel and the US in the ceasefire talks and improve Hamas’s bargaining position,” Saad said.

On Tuesday, Hizbollah 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 violence erupted the day after the Hamas attack on southern Israel.

The October 7 attack resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 37,202 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

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