Hezbollah launches barrage of rockets at Israel after top commander killed

Muhammad Nimah Nasser is at least the third senior commander killed in cross-border fighting since October.

Hezbollah says a top commander has been killed in an Israeli attack in southern Lebanon, at least the third high-ranking official in the group to be killed in almost nine months of cross-border fighting that has sparked fears of wider regional escalation.

The Lebanese armed group on Wednesday said that Muhammad Nimah Nasser, also known as “Hajj Abu Naameh”, had been killed. The Iran-aligned group later said it had launched 100 katyusha rockets targeting Israeli military positions.

The announcement of Nasser’s death on the group’s Telegram did not provide the location, but a source previously told Al Jazeera that a commander had been killed in the Hosh area in Tyre in southern Lebanon.  A source close to the group confirmed to the AFP news agency that Nasser had been killed in the Tyre attack.

The source said that Nasser had the same rank as Taleb Abdallah, another top commander who was killed by an Israeli attack in June. At the time, Abdallah was the highest-ranking Hezbollah military official killed since the group began fighting Israel on October 8 in response to bombardment of Gaza. Following Abdallah’s killing, Hezbollah launched one of its largest rocket barrages on northern Israel.

The Israeli military confirmed it targeted Nasser, and said he was a “counterpart” of Abdallah and in charge of Hezbollah’s “antitank and rocket fire from southwest Lebanon”. In January, an Israeli strike also killed Wissam al-Tawil, another top commander from the group.

The latest attacks come amid an uptick in fighting and charged rhetoric between Hezbollah and Israeli officials that has sent US, European, and Arab mediators scrambling to prevent a wider regional escalation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in late June that Israeli forces must shift their focus to northern Israel, while far-right Israeli ministers called for a full-scale invasion of territory controlled by Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has said Israel is seeking to prevent a wider war, but warned that its military has the capacity to take “Lebanon back to the Stone Age”.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the group was ready for war with “no restraint and no rules and no ceilings” in the event of a major Israeli attack.

For its part, Iran has warned that “all Resistance Fronts” would confront Israel if it attacks Lebanon, referring to the armed groups it supports throughout the region.

Reporting from Marjayoun, Lebanon, Al Jazeera Assed Baig said Hezbollah’s response to Nasser’s killing included a total of ten separate attacks.

“In fact, earlier on, we heard some of those missiles and rockets taking off from South Lebanon, and we saw them hitting the occupied Golan Heights. We saw the smoke rising and some of those fires,” he said.

Lebanon’s National News Agency also reported Israeli attacks on the southern towns of Khiam, Aita al-Shaab and Markaba following the killing on Wednesday.

“Israel has also been targeting South Lebanon, and some fear that this is an escalation,” Baig said.

Calls to avoid escalation

On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent a “conflagration” between Israel and Hezbollah.

Macron “reiterated his serious concern over a deepening of tensions between Hezbollah and Israel … and underscored the absolute need to prevent a conflagration that would harm the interests of Lebanon as well as Israel,” the French presidency said in a statement.

Meanwhile, US Envoy Amos Hochstein, who has made repeated visits to Lebanon in recent months, was also set to arrive in Paris on Wednesday to meet Macron’s Lebanon envoy Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Gallant said on Wednesday that attacks were continuing, adding the military will “reach a state of full readiness to take any action required in Lebanon or to reach an arrangement from a position of strength”.

Shortly before he spoke, Israeli fighter jets had bombed several villages in southern Lebanon overnight, including Yaroun, Tayr Harfa and Aitaroun.

A day earlier, Hezbollah deputy commander Sheikh Naim Kassem said the group would stop fighting “without any discussion” if a full ceasefire is reached in Gaza – a position it has maintained since the beginning of the war.

At least 543 people, including 88 civilians, have been killed by Israeli attacks in Lebanon, while at least 21 Israelis, including 10 civilians, have been killed in attacks by Hezbollah and other armed groups in Lebanon since the beginning of the war.

At least 37,953 people have been killed in Israel’s war on Gaza since October, according to Palestinian health authorities. Israel launched the assault after a Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on October 7 that killed at least 1,139 people, according to an Al Jazeera tally based on Israeli statistics.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies