Israeli raid kills another top Hezbollah commander as diplomats scramble to find calm in Lebanon

BEIRUT (AP) — An Israeli airstrike in southern Lebanon on Wednesday killed a senior Hezbollah commander, a Hezbollah official told The Associated Press, as tensions between the two sides continue.

The strike took place near the southern coastal city of Tyre as global diplomatic efforts have intensified in recent weeks to prevent an escalation of clashes between Hizb allah And the Israeli army from slipping into a comprehensive war that could lead to a direct confrontation between Israel and Iran.

A Hezbollah statement identified the slain commander as Mohammed Nimah Nasser, known as Abu Nimah, his nom de guerre. A Hezbollah official, speaking on condition of anonymity under regulations, said he was the head of the party’s Aziz unit, one of three regional divisions in southern Lebanon.

Nasser is the most senior official of the Iran-backed group to be killed. Since student Sami AbdullahHezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech honoring Abdullah that he had played a pivotal role on the front line since the clashes began on October 8, leading the Victory Unit.

Hezbollah said that in response to Nasser’s assassination, it fired heavy-headed Falak missiles targeting the headquarters of the Israeli army’s 769th Brigade in Kiryat Shmona, in addition to 100 batches of Katyusha rockets targeting the headquarters of the Israeli 210th Division and the Kala air base in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

The group also released footage of Nasser taking part in what they said was an operation at an Israeli military site in southern Lebanon in 1999 while it was under occupation.

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In a video circulated by local media, residents rushed to a charred car with a large cloud of smoke rising from it. Civil defense said first responders transported an injured person, whose name was not released, to the hospital.

The Israeli military acknowledged the attack, saying that Nasser, along with Abdullah, were “two of Hezbollah’s most important fighters” in southern Lebanon. It added that Nasser led the attacks from southwestern Lebanon.

Hezbollah fired rockets into northern Israel a day after Hamas launched a surprise attack on southern Israel in October, sparking limited clashes along the tense border. The attacks have gradually escalated since then, with Hezbollah introducing new weapons into its attacks and Israel striking deeper into Lebanon.

The group says it will halt its attacks once a ceasefire is reached in the Gaza Strip. Until then, it says it will continue its attacks to increase pressure on Israel and the international community. Israeli officials have threatened a broader military operation if Hezbollah does not stop its attacks.

Deputy Secretary-General of Hezbollah Sheikh Naim Qassem Netanyahu said in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday that Israel cannot expect the group’s attacks to remain limited if it launches a military operation inside Lebanon, even if it aims to keep the conflict below the threshold of all-out war. Thousands of Iranian-backed militiamen in IraqThey offered to join Hezbollah on the front lines.

Israeli air strikes on Lebanon since October have killed more than 450 people, Most of them are Hezbollah fighters.But the dead also include more than 80 civilians and non-combatants. On the Israeli side, 16 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed since the war in Gaza began. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced on both sides of the tense border in the months-long war.

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US President Joe Biden’s senior adviser, Amos Hochstein, who has been shuttling between Lebanon and Israel, is scheduled to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron’s envoy to Lebanon, Jean-Yves Le Drian, in Paris on Wednesday as part of his ongoing diplomatic efforts to end the conflict.

French officials had invited Hochstein to the French capital to discuss the latest developments in their ongoing diplomatic efforts, according to administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly.

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Associated Press writers Abby Sewell in Beirut and Amer Madhani in Washington contributed to this report.

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