Hezbollah Says Commander Was Killed in a Strike in Lebanon: Israel-Hamas War Updates

Hezbollah said on Monday that one of its commanders had been killed in a strike in southern Lebanon, adding to concerns about a wider regional war as Israel battles Hamas in Gaza.

The killing of the commander, identified by Hezbollah as Wissam Hassan al-Tawil, came amid Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s Middle East trip aimed at preventing the Israel-Hamas war from spreading to other fronts.

Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, and Israel have traded increasingly intense and deadly cross-border fire since the Israel-Hamas war began three months ago, eliciting Israeli warnings of a full-scale war. Six days ago, a strike in Beirut — attributed, like the one on Monday, to Israel — killed a top Hamas official who was a liaison to Hezbollah and to the two groups’ mutual patron, Iran.

A Lebanese security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said that Mr. al-Tawil was a commander in Hezbollah’s Radwan unit, which Israel says aims to infiltrate its northern border. The official said that Mr. al-Tawil had been killed in an Israeli strike in Khirbet Selm, a village in southern Lebanon that is about nine miles from the Israeli border.

The Israeli military did not directly comment on the attack. In a statement, it said that an Israeli fighter jet had carried out “a series of strikes,” hitting a Hezbollah military site, without giving further details.

Mr. al-Tawil’s role in Hezbollah was not immediately clear. But in an apparent effort to signal his seniority, Al Manar, a Hezbollah-owned Lebanese broadcaster, posted images of him alongside various high-ranking Hezbollah officials including the group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, as well as with Qassim Suleimani, the Iranian general who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020.

A day earlier, the Israeli military said that it had killed at least seven members of Hezbollah in strikes aimed at destroying the Radwan unit and that it was ready to attack more of Hezbollah’s positions. The Israeli military’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Herzl Halevi, said that its forces were determined to keep pressure on Hezbollah and that if those efforts fell short, Israel was ready to fight “another war.”

“We will create a completely different reality, or we will get to another war,” he said on Sunday.

Hezbollah attacks damaged an Israeli military base on Saturday, one of the group’s biggest assaults against Israel in months of back-and-forth strikes across the border. The powerful Lebanese militia has pledged support for Hamas, and in recent days, it has stepped up assaults on Israel in response to the killing last week of Saleh al-Arouri a senior Hamas leader, outside of Beirut.

The rocket fire on the base, the Northern Air Control Unit on Mount Meron, left it with significant damage, according to accounts in the Israeli news media, but the facility is still operating “and has been reinforced with additional systems,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military’s chief spokesman, said on Sunday.

The clashes have added to concerns that the Israel-Hamas war could grow into a wider regional conflict, and have forced tens of thousands of people on each side of the Israel-Lebanon border to evacuate their communities. In solidarity with Hamas, the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen has attacked ships in the Red Sea and launched missiles at Israel. The United States has struck targets in Iraq, while Israel is presumed to have carried out targeted assassinations in Syria and Lebanon.

Israeli leaders have repeatedly declared in recent weeks that there are only two options for restoring calm in the conflict with Hezbollah: a diplomatic solution that would move the Radwan forces farther from the border, north of the Litani River; or, failing that, a major Israeli military offensive aimed at achieving the same goal.

Calm, they say, is a prerequisite for about 80,000 Israelis who have been evacuated from the area to be able to return to their homes. A similar number of Lebanese have fled their homes on the other side of the border.

“Hezbollah is dragging Lebanon into a totally unnecessary war,” Eylon Levy, an Israeli government spokesman, told reporters on Monday.

“We are now at a fork in the road,” he added. “Either Hezbollah backs off, hopefully as part of a diplomatic solution, or we will push it away.”

The Biden administration has been calling for an agreement that would move Hezbollah forces away from the border, but with little apparent progress. Although Israeli officials have said that time for a diplomatic deal is running out, analysts say that Israel is wary of significantly expanding the conflict with Hezbollah while the military is still engaged in intensive fighting in Gaza.