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Article: Hezbollah vows to escalate attacks after Israel kills a top commander

Hezbollah vows to escalate attacks after Israel kills a top commander

Hezbollah vows to escalate attacks after Israel kills a top commander

PHOTO CAPTION: Hezbollah members take part in a military exercise during a media tour organized for the occasion of Resistance and Liberation Day, in Aaramta, Lebanon May 21, 2023. REUTERS/Aziz Taher



By James Mackenzie and Laila Bassam

JERUSALEM/BEIRUT (Reuters) -Hezbollah fired big barrages of rockets at Israel on Wednesday and vowed to ramp up its attacks in retaliation for an Israeli strike which killed a senior Hezbollah field commander, as the conflict across the Lebanese-Israeli border escalated sharply.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israel have been trading fire since the eruption of the Gaza war in October, in steadily intensifying hostilities that have fuelled concern of a bigger confrontation between the heavily armed adversaries.

The Israeli strike in the south Lebanon village of Jouaiyya late on Tuesday killed three Hezbollah fighters alongside the senior field commander Taleb Abdallah, also known as Abu Taleb, Israel and three security sources in Lebanon said.

He was the most senior Hezbollah commander killed during eight months of hostilities, one of the sources said.

The Israeli military confirmed that it had killed him as well as the three other Hezbollah fighters in a strike on a command and control centre.

The sources in Lebanon said he was Hezbollah's commander for the central region of the southern border strip.

Thousands of Hezbollah supporters filled streets in the Hezbollah-controlled southern suburbs of Beirut for a funeral procession, ahead of his burial later in south Lebanon.

Speaking at the procession, senior Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine said the group would increase the intensity, force and quantity of its operations against Israel in response.

"If the enemy is screaming and moaning about what happened to it in northern Palestine, let him prepare himself to cry and wail," Safieddine said.


A security source in Lebanon said Hezbollah had fired more than 100 rockets in response, saying it was one of the group's biggest rocket barrages since the hostilities began in October.

Hezbollah declared at least five attacks in response to what it called an assassination by Israel in Jouaiyya, including one in which Hezbollah fighters fired guided missiles at an Israeli military factory.

The group also said it had attacked Israeli military headquarters in Ein Zeitim and Ami'ad, and an Israeli military air surveillance station in Meron, in each case firing dozens of Katyusha rockets, according to its statements.

Sirens sounded in northern Israel.

Israeli jets hit a number of launch sites in southern Lebanon on Wednesday after projectiles were fired towards northern Israel, the military said.

The Israeli military earlier said Hezbollah had fired a barrage of around 50 launches from southern Lebanon into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

In a second announcement, Israel said approximately 90 projectiles were identified crossing from Lebanon, a number of which were intercepted while others fell in several locations in northern Israel, causing fires in a number of areas.

It was not clear if the Israeli statements were referring to two separate launches.

Abdallah, the Hezbollah commander killed on Tuesday, was senior to Wissam Tawil, a high-level Hezbollah commander killed in an Israeli strike in January, said the sources in Lebanon, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas called Abdallah a great leader, in a statement offering condolences for his death.

The security sources said the four Hezbollah members were likely targeted during a meeting.

Israeli strikes have killed some 300 Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon - more than it lost in 2006, when the sides last fought a major war, according to a Reuters tally which puts the number of civilians killed at around 80. Attacks from Lebanon have killed 18 Israeli soldiers and 10 civilians, Israel says.

The Israeli military says it has killed more than 320 Hezbollah members, including at least 100 targeted after field operatives gathered "precise high-quality intelligence" on them.

(Reporting by Laila Bassam and Tom Perry in Beirut, James Mackenzie in Jerusalem, Tala Ramadan, Nadine Awadallah, Clauda Tanios and Enas Alashray in Dubai; Writing by Maya Gebeily and Tom Perry; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Toby Chopra and Alex Richardson)



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