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Israeli strike kills senior Hezbollah commander

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Hezbollah has said one of its senior commanders was killed in an Israeli air strike in southern Lebanon, with the Iran-backed armed group retaliating with a barrage of rockets against Israel.

Mohammed Nimah Nasser is the latest senior member of Hezbollah to be targeted by Israel during almost nine months of cross-border violence which have raised fears of an all-out war.

Hezbollah said it had launched 100 rockets and missiles at Israeli military positions “as part of the response to the assassination”. The Israeli military said a number of projectiles which fell in open areas sparked fires, but no injuries were reported.

The military said Nasser commanded Hezbollah’s Aziz Unit, which is responsible for launching rockets from south-western Lebanon, and accused him of directing a “large number of terror attacks”.

It also described him as “the counterpart” of Taleb Sami Abdullah, the commander of another unit whose killing last month prompted Hezbollah to launch more than 200 rockets and missiles into northern Israel in a single day.

Since then, there has been a flurry of diplomatic efforts to de-escalate tensions, with the UN and US warning of the potentially catastrophic consequences of a war that could also draw in Iran and other allied groups.

There have been almost daily exchanges of fire across the Israel-Lebanon border since the day after the start of the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza on 7 October.

Hezbollah has said it is acting in support of the Palestinian group that is also backed by Iran. Both groups are proscribed as terrorist organisations by Israel, the UK and other countries.

In recent weeks, Israeli officials have repeatedly warned that they will use military force to restore security along the northern border if diplomacy fails.

“We are striking Hezbollah very hard every day and we will also reach a state of full readiness to take any action required in Lebanon, or to reach an arrangement from a position of strength,” Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said on Wednesday. “We prefer an arrangement, but if reality forces us we will know how to fight.”

Hezbollah, heavily armed and long seen as a significantly superior foe to Hamas, has said it does not want a full-out war with Israel and that it will observe in Lebanon any ceasefire in Gaza.

“Israel can decide what it wants: limited war, total war, partial war,” the group’s deputy leader, Naim Qassem, said in an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday. “But it should expect that our response and our resistance will not be within a ceiling and rules of engagement set by Israel.”

So far, more than 400 people have been reported killed in Lebanon, the vast majority of them Hezbollah fighters, and 25 people in Israel, mostly soldiers.

Tens of thousands from communities on both sides of the border have also been displaced.

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