Israel claims killing Hezbollah leader; 14 others die in strike

Published February 16, 2024
VILLAGERS check the destruction following an Israeli air strike on the village of Sawwaneh, near Lebanon’s border with Israel, on Wednesday. — AFP
VILLAGERS check the destruction following an Israeli air strike on the village of Sawwaneh, near Lebanon’s border with Israel, on Wednesday. — AFP

BEIRUT: An Israeli strike killed a Hezbollah commander and 14 others in the southern Lebanese city of Nabatiyeh, a security source said on Thursday, raising fears of further escalation.

Hezbollah movement and Israel have been exc­han­ging near-daily fire ac­ross the border since Oct 7.

In the bloodiest day since then, the Israeli military said in a statement it had killed Hezbollah comman­der Ali al-Debs, his deputy and another fighter in Nabatiyeh on Wednes­day.

A source in Lebanon said that, along with Debs and two other Hezbollah members, the strike had killed eleven civilians, including seven from the same family. The deaths brought to 15 the total number of civilians killed in Israeli strikes on Wednesday, the highest such toll since the cross-border hostilities erupted.

In its statement, the Israeli military said Debs, his deputy and another fighter were killed “in a precise air strike carried out by an IDF (Israeli army) aircraft on a Hezbollah military structure in Nabati­yeh”. Hezbollah announced on Thursday that three of its fighters including Debs had been killed, without specifying where they had died. It had already said two other members were killed on Wednesday.

The Israeli army had said it lost a soldier in unclaimed rocket fire from Lebanon on Wednesday and that its warplanes carried out strikes on Lebanon. Debs had already been targeted and wounded in an Israeli drone strike in the southern city on February 8.

Lebanon’s official National News Agency had identified five of the dead civilians in Nabatiyeh as Hussein Barjawi, his two daughters, his sister and his grandson. His wife and niece were also killed, the security source said.

Pulled alive

Emergency responders pulled a boy alive from the rubble, the NNA added, while another relative and at least six other people were taken to hospital. The agency said the Israeli strike was carried out by “a drone with a guided missile”.

A photographer said the ground and first floors of the three-storey residential building were hit, with pieces of furniture strewn among the rubble. Also on Wednesday, the NNA said Israeli warplanes targeted a house in south Lebanon’s Sawwaneh, killing three members of the same family — a Syrian woman and her child, aged two, and stepchild, 13.

Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas, which is also backed by Iran, says it has been targeting Israeli military sites in support of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

‘Deeply concerning’

Fears have been growing of another full-blown conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, which last went to war in 2006. Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Thursday condemned the Israeli strikes and “new massacres”, particularly the civilian deaths in Nabatiyeh.

He said that while Lebanon urged “all parties” to avoid escalation, “we find that the Israeli enemy keeps up its aggression”, adding that Beirut would lodge a complaint with the United Nations Security Council.

“The devastation, loss of life, and injuries witnessed are deeply concerning,” said Andrea Tenenti from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in a statement, urging “all parties involved to halt hostilities immediately to prevent further escalation.”

Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2024

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