BEIRUT: An Israeli strike killed a commander of Hezbollah’s elite Radwan force in south Lebanon on Monday, security sources familiar with the group’s operations in Lebanon told Reuters, in one of the most high profile attacks on its senior officers in three months of hostilities with Israel.
Wissam Al Tawil, the deputy head of a unit within the elite Radwan force “had a leading role in managing Hezbollah’s operations in the south”, the security official said, requesting anonymity over security concerns.
The official added that he “was killed in an Israeli strike targeting his car in the south”.
The commander held several other top positions in the Shiite militant movement, the official said.
More than 130 Hezbollah fighters including members of the Radwan force have been killed in hostilities across the Israeli-Lebanese border since Hamas attacked Israel from Gaza on October 7, igniting a conflict that has rippled around the region.
Wissam Al Tawil, the deputy head of a Radwan unit, and another Hezbollah fighter were killed when the car they were in was struck in the village of Majdal Selm, some 6km (3.7 miles)from the border, three security sources in Lebanon said.
There was no immediate comment from Israel.
Al Tawil was one of the most senior Hezbollah commanders killed in the hostilities so far, according to another source in Lebanon familiar with the matter.
The group circulated photographs of Tawil with Hezbollah leaders including Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah and Imad Mughniyeh, the group’s military commander who was killed in Syria in 2008.
Another photo showed him sitting next to the late leader of the Iranian Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, who killed by a US drone strike in Baghdad four years ago.
One of the security sources called Al Tawil’s death “a very painful strike”. Another said “things will flare up now.”
Deputy Hamas leader's death
Hezbollah says its campaign aims to support Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The hostilities between the group and Israel have largely been contained to areas near the border.
Tensions spiked higher last week when an Israeli strike killed deputy Hamas chief Saleh Al Aruri in Beirut’s southern suburbs, an area controlled by Hezbollah. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied its responsibility for that attack.
Hezbollah on Saturday said it had hit a key Israeli observation post with 62 rockets as a “preliminary response” to Arouri’s killing.
Other members of the Radwan force killed during the hostilities include Abbas Raad, son of a leading Hezbollah politician. He was killed in an Israeli strike in November.
Hezbollah’s secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel in two televised addresses last week not to launch a full-scale war on Lebanon.
“Whoever thinks of war with us - in one word, he will regret it,” Nasrallah said.
On Sunday, Hezbollah deputy leader Naim Qassem said the group did not want to “initiate total war, but if Israel decides to wage total war on us then we in the field will respond with total war without hesitation and with all we have”.
Nineteen Hezbollah fighters have been killed in Syria since the hostilities erupted.
The Hamas-Israel war has drawn in Iran-aligned groups across the region, with the Houthis of Yemen firing on ships in the Red Sea and launching missiles and drones at Israel, and Tehran-backed militias in Iraq attacking U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria.