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Updated Feb 26, 2024, 1:06pm EST
securityMiddle East
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Semafor Signals

Israel assassinated high-ranking Hezbollah commander

Insights from Maariv, Al Jazeera, and Le Monde

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Clouds of smoke rise from Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, as sources in Lebanon reported Israeli airstrikes killed at least two Hezbollah members.
REUTERS
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The News

Israeli air strikes killed the head of Hezbollah’s eastern command, Hassan Hossein Salami, in southern Lebanon, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said Monday. The Lebanese news outlet Al-Akhbar reported that Hezbollah had confirmed Salami’s death. The IDF said that Salami had ordered several attacks on northern Israel on both civilian and military targets.

The killing of Salami came the same day as Israel’s air force struck targets linked to the militant group Hezbollah deeper inside Lebanon than any Israeli attacks in recent years.

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At least two people were killed on Monday in three Israeli air strikes close to a Hezbollah stronghold in eastern Lebanon, Reuters reported. The Israeli army confirmed the attacks, saying that they came “in response to the launch of a surface-to-air missile” that struck an Israeli drone earlier on Monday in southern Lebanon.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said on Sunday that Israel was “planning to increase the firepower against Hezbollah,” vowing to continue hitting Hezbollah even if a temporary truce was implemented in Gaza. Israeli and Hezbollah troops have been exchanging fire regularly across the border between the two countries since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, leaving more than 200 people dead, largely Hezbollah fighters but also civilians on both sides.

According to U.S. officials, Israel, the U.S. and several Middle Eastern countries have come to an “understanding” on the terms of a Gaza ceasefire, but it remains unclear if Hamas will agree to its conditions. The terms of the framework are reported to include requirements for Hamas to release Israeli hostages held in Gaza in exchange for a truce lasting several weeks as well as the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Israeli public strongly supports military action against Hezbollah

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Sources:  
Le Monde, Maariv

Despite near daily attacks by both Hezbollah and Israel, many experts believe that neither side wants the conflict to escalate into a full-scale war. Even so, the Israeli government is under pressure from the 80,000 residents of northern Israel who have been evacuated from their homes following Hezbollah’s strikes, many of whom will not return unless Hezbollah forces are pushed further from the border. Recent polling showed that 71% of Israelis support taking large-scale military action to drive Hezbollah back from the border, the Israeli newspaper Maariv reported.

Pushing Hezbollah back from the border is no easy task

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Sources:  
The Atlantic Council, Al Jazeera

A military operation in southern Lebanon would not be easy due to Hezbollah’s decades of preparation for an Israeli attack and its ability to temporarily retreat north until Israeli forces pull back, the Beirut-based security expert Nicholas Blanford wrote for the Atlantic Council. Hezbollah has a larger fighting force than Hamas and a stockpile of approximately 150,000 missiles, which means it has the capacity to “inflict a terrible cost on Israel,” Randa Slim of the Middle East Institute told Al Jazeera. As the back-and-forth strikes continue, “the pressure on the Israeli government to launch some form of offensive into south Lebanon is going to be hard to resist,” Blanford wrote.

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