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Billowing smokes are pictured after Israeli airstrikes in Khiam, Lebanon on 6 January. Alamy Stock Photo
Middle East

Israeli strike kills Hezbollah commander in southern Lebanon

The strike in southern Lebanon has raised fears that the Gaza conflict could turn into a wider war in the Middle East.

AN ISRAELI AIR strike has killed an elite Hezbollah commander in southern Lebanon, the latest in an escalating exchange along the border that has raised fears over another Middle East conflict even as the fighting in Gaza exacts a mounting toll on civilians.

The strike on an SUV killed a commander in a secretive Hezbollah force that operates along the border, according to a Lebanese security official.

Hezbollah identified the fighter who was killed as Wissam al-Tawil.

He is the most senior militant in the armed group to have been killed since Hamas’ 7 October attack triggered the ongoing conflict in Gaza and lower-intensity fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, which has escalated since an Israeli strike killed a senior Hamas leader in Beirut last week.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is back in the region this week, appears to be trying to head off a wider conflict in the region.

Israel says it has largely wrapped up major operations in northern Gaza and is now focusing on the central region and the southern city of Khan Younis.

in-this-picture-released-by-hezbollah-military-media-shows-senior-hezbollah-commander-wissam-tawil-who-was-killed-in-kherbet-selem-village-south-lebanon-on-monday-jan-8-2024-tawil-a-senior-hezb In this picture released by Hezbollah Military Media, shows senior Hezbollah commander Wissam Tawil who was killed in Kherbet Selem village, South Lebanon.

Israeli officials have said the fighting will continue for many more months as the army seeks to dismantle Hamas and return scores of hostages taken during the militant group’s 7 October attack.

The offensive has already killed more than 23,000 Palestinians, devastated vast swathes of the Gaza Strip, displaced nearly 85% of its population of 2.3 million and left a quarter of its residents facing starvation.

Medics, patients and displaced people fled from the main Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in central Gaza as the fighting drew closer, witnesses said on Monday. Losing the facility would be another major blow to a health system shattered by three months of conflict. 

Doctors Without Borders and other aid groups withdrew from the hospital in Deir al-Balah in recent days, saying it was too dangerous. That spread panic among people sheltering there, causing many to join the hundreds of thousands who have fled to the south of the besieged territory.

Tens of thousands of people have sought shelter in Gaza’s hospitals, which are also struggling to treat dozens of people wounded each day in Israeli strikes. Only 13 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are even partially functioning, according to the UN humanitarian office.

Omar al-Darawi, an employee at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, said the facility has been struck multiple times in recent days. He said thousands of people left after the aid groups pulled out, and that patients have been concentrated on one floor so the remaining doctors can tend to them more easily.

“We have large numbers of wounded who can’t move,” he said. “They need special care, which is unavailable.”

More dead and wounded arrive each day as Israeli forces advance in central Gaza following heavy air strikes. Gaza’s health ministry said 249 Palestinians have been killed and 510 others were wounded across the territory in the last 24 hours.

World Health Organisation (WHO) staff who visited on Sunday saw “sickening scenes of people of all ages being treated on blood-streaked floors and in chaotic corridors”, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the UN agency, said in a statement.

He added: “The bloodbath in Gaza must end.”

Press Association