A senior Hezbollah leader has been killed by an Israeli airstrike on south Lebanon, Lebanese security officials have claimed.
Wissam al-Tawil, deputy head of a unit within the militant’s Radwan force, reportedly died when his car was hit in the village of Khirbet Selm in southern Lebanon.
The commander’s alleged death comes two days after Hezbollah launched a wide-ranging missile attack on an Israeli military base in Mount Meron in north Israel.
Discussing the commander’s death, one said: “This is a very painful strike.”
Another added: “Things will flare up now.”
A Honda SUV driven by Mr al-Tawil is understood to have been struck while he was driving it, with another fighter a passenger in the vehicle.
The Israel Defence Forces and Hezbollah have not yet made any official comments about the incident.
Hezbollah said its missile attack was retaliation for an Israeli strike killing a top Hamas official in Beirut last week.
Since Hamas’s attack on Israel on 7 October last year, its military has been carrying out intensive air strikes on Hezbollah – an ally of Hamas – in Lebanon.
Before the commander’s reported death, Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant said his country was determined to end Hamas rule of the enclave and deter other potential Iran-backed adversaries like Hezbollah.
He told the Wall Street Journal: “We are fighting an axis, not a single enemy.
“Iran is building up military power around Israel in order to use it.”
Israeli bombardment of southern Lebanon since Hamas’s attack on Israel has killed more than 130 Hezbollah fighters.
The Israeli military previously told how fighter jets have targeted Hezbollah infrastructure in southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah’s secretary-general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel in two televised addresses last week not to launch a full-scale war on Lebanon.
He said: “Whoever thinks of war with us – in one word, he will regret it.”
Last month Israel warned that its military will step up action against Hezbollah at the northern border following near-daily skirmishes.
A report also revealed Hezbollah’s leader was informed of Hamas’s surprise attack on southern Israel just half an hour before it began.
Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet and former defence minister, also threatened to take steps to remove Hezbollah from the border with Lebanon, from where it has launched airstrikes at Israel.
He said: “The stopwatch for a diplomatic solution is running out.
“If the world and the Lebanese government don’t act in order to prevent the firing on Israel’s northern residents, and to distance Hezbollah from the border, the IDF will do it.”
Additonal reporting by Reuters and AP.