Israel strike kills Hezbollah commander

this undated 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. /
this undated 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. / AP

BEIRUT — An Israeli airstrike killed an elite Hezbollah commander Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, in southern Lebanon, the latest in an escalating exchange of strikes across the border that have raised fears of another Mideast war even as the fighting in Gaza exacts a mounting toll on civilians.

The strike on a sports utility vehicle killed a commander in a secretive Hezbollah unit that operates along the border, according to a Lebanese security official who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with regulations. The commander, Wissam al-Tawil, was a veteran of the Iranian-backed Lebanese force who took part in the 2006 cross-border kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers that triggered the last war between Israel and Hezbollah, an official in the group said.

He is the most senior Hezbollah militant killed since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel triggered all-out war in Gaza and lower-intensity fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, which has escalated since an Israeli strike killed a senior Hamas leader last week in Beirut.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is back in the region this week, appears to be trying to head off a wider conflict. In other developments, Israel said it has largely wrapped up major operations in northern Gaza, though fighting and bombardment there continue. Israeli forces are now focusing on the central region and the southern city of Khan Younis, where thousands more Palestinians fled.

Israeli officials say the fighting will continue for many more months as the army seeks to dismantle Hamas and return scores of hostages taken during the militants' Oct. 7 attack. The offensive has already killed over 23,000 Palestinians, devastated vast swaths of the Gaza Strip, displaced nearly 85 percent of its population of 2.3 million and left a quarter of its residents facing starvation.

Displaced people

Medics, patients and displaced people fled from central Gaza’s main hospital as fighting drew closer, witnesses said Monday. Losing the facility would be another major blow to a health system shattered by three months of war.

Doctors Without Borders and other aid groups withdrew from Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah, saying it was too dangerous amid Israeli bombardment, drone strikes and sniper fire. That spread panic among people sheltering there. Thousands left, joining the hundreds of thousands who have fled further south, said a hospital staffer, Omar al-Darawi.

Tens of thousands of people have sought shelter in Gaza’s hospitals, which are struggling to treat the continuous flow of wounded from Israeli strikes. Only 13 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are even partially functional, according to the U.N. humanitarian office.

The Al-Aqsa hospital was struck multiple times in recent days, al-Darawi said. After the pullout, large numbers of patients who cannot be moved were concentrated on one floor to be treated by remaining doctors. “They need special care, which is unavailable,” he said.

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