Hezbollah fires 200 rockets into Israel after commander killed

Massive barrage launched in response to killing of armed group’s senior commander as fears of full-blown war reverberate.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah says it launched more than 200 rockets and drones targeting Israeli military positions in response to a strike that killed a senior commander of the armed group.

A Hezbollah source confirmed Thursday’s barrage to Al Jazeera – the second major attack in two days – launched in retaliation for the killing of Muhammad Nimah Nasser in southern Lebanon a day earlier.

Nasser, also known as “Hajj Abu Nimah”, was the third high-ranking official killed in almost nine months of cross-border fighting that erupted after Israel launched its war on Gaza. His death prompted Hezbollah to launch more than 100 rockets into Israel on Wednesday.

The attack on Thursday was one of the largest so far along the Lebanon-Israel border as tensions skyrocket with the group sending exploding drones at several military bases in northern Israel and the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

The Israeli military said its forces were “striking launch posts in southern Lebanon” after “numerous projectiles and suspicious aerial targets crossed from Lebanon into Israeli territory”, most of which were intercepted.

It said “fires broke out in a number of areas in northern Israel” following the attacks.

Israeli media reported a vehicle with Israeli troops inside was hit by a projectile. There were reportedly two direct strikes on two buildings, one in Acre and another north of the city. Ambulance service Magen David Adom said two women were taken to hospital in northern Israel with light injuries.

Seventeen alerts were sounded over 90 minutes in different parts of the northern region, from Nahariya in the west to Golan in the east, according to the military.

Mohammad Naameh Nasser
Hezbollah commander Muhammad Nimah Nasser [Hezbollah Media Relations Office via AP]

Wider war fears grow

The uptick in fighting and charged rhetoric between Hezbollah and Israeli officials has sent United States, European, and Arab mediators scrambling to prevent a wider regional conflagration.

Hezbollah says it is striking Israel in solidarity with Palestinian armed group Hamas, which attacked southern Israel on October 7, killing at least 1,139 people and taking about 250 others captive.

In response, Israel launched a no-limits attack on Gaza that has killed more than 38,000 people – mostly children and women – forcibly displaced about two million others multiple times, and laid waste to the long-besieged coastal enclave.

Now, as tensions with Hezbollah spike, Israeli officials say they may go to war in Lebanon if efforts for a diplomatic solution fail.

Estimates suggest border clashes have so far killed at least 496 people in Lebanon, mostly fighters but also 95 civilians. Israeli authorities say at least 15 soldiers and 11 civilians have died.

Rami Khouri, a political analyst from the American University of Beirut, said while Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to thump the drums of war with Hezbollah, its military is unprepared for a second front.

“Netanyahu, especially, keeps saying we are going to attack Lebanon. We are going to destroy Hezbollah. But they don’t have the capacity to do that while they are still fighting a war in Gaza,” Khouri told Al Jazeera.

He suggested a Gaza ceasefire is the best possible scenario for Israel. “Hezbollah has said many times: ‘We will stop attacking Israel if Israel stops attacking Gaza.’”

Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, said on Wednesday he’s “very worried about the escalation of the exchange of fire” between Hezbollah and Israel.

He warned of the potential risks to the region as a whole if it were to find itself in a “full-fledged conflict”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies