Israeli strike on Lebanon kills senior Hizbullah commander as fighting continues in Gaza

UN warns that the only medical facility in the centre of the Gaza strip is on the verge of shutting down

Senior Hizbullah commander Wissam al-Tawil was killed in south Lebanon on Monday, bringing Israel and Hizbullah a step closer to an all-out war.

The senior commander in the Iranian-backed group’s elite Radwan strike force was killed along with another man when the car they were in was hit in a drone strike about 15km from the border.

Hizbullah blamed Israel and fired rockets at Israeli communities along the northern border.

Speaking to soldiers on the northern border on Monday, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he would do everything “to restore security to the north” and allow the more than 70,000 residents evacuated from the region to return home, adding “know that you cannot mess with us”.


Commenting on the drone strike, US national security council spokesperson John Kirby expressed Washington’s “strong desire not to see the conflict escalate or widen”. Mr Kirby added: “We believe that displaced people in Lebanon and displaced people in Israel have a right to return to their homes and we’d like to see that happen as soon as possible.”

The latest escalation came just hours before US secretary of state Antony Blinken was due to land in Israel, the latest stop on his regional tour, with averting an all-out war between Israel and Hizbullah his top priority.

From the start of the Gaza campaign, Washington has urged Israel to prevent the opening of a second front, reportedly preventing the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) from launching a pre-emptive strike on October 11th, four days after the surprise Hamas attack.

Lebanon’s foreign minister Abdallah Bou Habib has said Beirut is ready to implement UN Security Council resolution 1701, which states that Hizbullah fighters will not deploy south of the Litani river, the Lebanese army will control all of Lebanon and Hizbullah will disarm.

The Israeli army has entered a new phase in the war in Gaza, IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari told the New York Times on Monday, saying the scaled-back operation is expected to “involve fewer ground troops and air strikes”. However, Mr Netanyahu and defence minister Yoav Gallant, in a joint statement on Monday, cautioned that the fighting will last for months.

The Hamas-run health ministry says more than 23,000 people have now been killed in Gaza. Some 1,200 Israelis were killed and 240 seized and taken to Gaza when Hamas gunmen launched their surprise attack on October 7th.

The fighting has displaced most of Gaza’s 2.3 million population, left many homes and civilian infrastructure in ruins, and caused acute shortages of food, water and medicine.

Gemma Connell, spokeswoman for the United Nations’ office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs (OCHA), warned that al-Aqsa hospital – which is the only medical facility in the central Gaza Strip – is on the verge of shutting down.

“Al-Aqsa is the single remaining hospital in the middle area of Gaza where a major offensive is under way,” she said. “The situation in the hospital is dire. We have just a single doctor who is working in the emergency room and two surgeons left responding to hundreds.”

Some 10 rockets were fired from Gaza into central Israel on Monday night. Israel said the projectiles were launched from Rafah, on the border with Egypt, the only area in Gaza where Israeli troops have not entered.

Islamic Jihad released a video on Monday showing Israeli Elad Katzir (47), one of the 136 hostages– some of whom have been killed – still held in Gaza. He was abducted from his home in kibbutz Nir Oz.

United Nation experts on Monday demanded accountability for sexual violence against Israeli civilians during the October 7th Hamas attacks, saying that mounting evidence of rapes and genital mutilation point to possible crimes against humanity.

Israeli authorities have opened an investigation into possible sexual crimes. Hamas denies the abuses.

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Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem