January 9, 2024

Hezbollah targets Israeli base to avenge Lebanon killings

Hezbollah targets Israeli base to avenge Lebanon killings

Hezbollah fighters and supporters attend the funeral of slain Hezbollah military commander Wissam Tawil, also know as Jawad, in his hometown of Khirbet Selm, south of Beirut on January 9, 2024. Hezbollah announced on January 8 the killing of a “commander” for the first time, naming him as Wissam Hassan Tawil. A security souce in Lebanon, requesting anonymity for security reasons, said Tawil “had a leading role in managing Hezbollah’s operations in the south”, and was killed there by an Israeli strike targeting his car. (Photo by MAHMOUD ZAYYAT / AFP) (Photo by MAHMOUD ZAYYAT/AFP via Getty Images)

Lebanon’s Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah said it targeted a command base in northern Israel on Tuesday in retaliation for the killings of one of its commanders and a Hamas leader.

Hezbollah said the attack was part of its response to the killings of top field commander Wissam Tawil on Monday and Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Aruri on January 2.

The Shiite Muslim movement, a Hamas ally, said in a statement that it had targeted the “enemy’s northern command centre” in the Israeli city of Safed with “several suicide drones”.

The Israeli military confirmed that a “hostile aircraft” had crashed at one of its bases in the north, and said that “no injuries or damage were reported”.

Hezbollah and its arch-foe Israel have been exchanging near-daily fire across the border since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on October 7.

Tawil — the highest-ranking Hezbollah member to be killed since October 7 — was buried in his south Lebanon home village of Khirbit Silm on Tuesday.

Hundreds of Hezbollah supporters attended the funeral procession in which the group’s yellow flag was draped over his coffin.

The Hezbollah statement said Tawil was involved in the abduction of Israeli soldiers which triggered its war with Israel in 2006, and that he also took part in noteworthy operations in Syria.

He had also “directed numerous operations” against Israeli forces since the Gaza war began, Hezbollah said.

The group’s number two Naim Qassem, in a speech on Tuesday, described Tawil as a member of Hezbollah’s elite al-Radwan Brigade who had fought on several fronts.

He warned that Israel’s wave of targeted killings “cannot lead to a phase of retreat but rather to a push forward for the resistance”.

Escalating tensions 

Earlier on Tuesday, an Israeli strike targeted a car in the south Lebanon village of Ghandouria, the country’s National News Agency said.

The strike left “three Hezbollah fighters dead” a security source told AFP, requesting anonymity for security reasons.

Hezbollah later announced that four of its fighters had been killed in the Ghandouria incident.

On Saturday, Hezbollah said it had fired more than 60 rockets at an Israeli military base in response to Hamas deputy leader Aruri’s killing in Beirut which was widely blamed on Israel.

Aruri, the most high-profile Hamas figure to be killed during the Gaza war, was killed in Hezbollah’s south Beirut stronghold in the first strike on the Lebanese capital since hostilities began.

Escalating tensions have prompted a succession of Western diplomats to converge on Beirut to urge restraint and discuss potential solutions — including land border talks.

In a meeting on Tuesday with UN chief of peacekeeping operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said his country was “ready for talks to achieve long-term stability in south Lebanon”.

The three months of cross-border violence have killed more than 185 people in Lebanon, including 140 Hezbollah fighters and more than 20 civilians including three journalists, according to an AFP tally.

In northern Israel, nine soldiers and at least four civilians have been killed, according to Israeli authorities.