Hamas terrorist behind global attack plots killed in strike near Tyre, Israel says

IDF calls Hadi Mustafa a ‘central figure’ who organized terror activity against Israelis and Jews, but Hamas source claims he was not a senior operative; Syrian passerby also killed

Firefighters douse a burning car after it was hit in a reported Israeli drone attack in Lebanon's southern area of Tyre on March 13, 2024. (AFP)
Firefighters douse a burning car after it was hit in a reported Israeli drone attack in Lebanon's southern area of Tyre on March 13, 2024. (AFP)

An Israeli drone strike on a vehicle near the Lebanese city of Tyre Wednesday killed two people, including a Hamas operative Israel said had a been a central figure in planning terror attacks on Israelis and Jews worldwide.

The attack on a car outside a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon was the latest Israeli sortie deep inside Lebanon and came a day after the restive border region between the two countries saw massive barrages of Hezbollah rockets fired into Israel.

The broad daylight strike, which also killed a passerby, turned a vehicle near Rashidieh, on the outskirts of Tyre, into a mangled, flaming wreck. An AFP photographer reported seeing rescue workers collecting human remains at the scene.

Hamas identified one of the victims as Hadi Mustafa, who was a member of the terrorist organization.

The Israel Defense Forces said it had targeted Mustafa, describing him as a “central operative” in the terror group and a “leading figure” in a Hamas unit in Lebanon headed by Samir Fandi, who was assassinated in Beirut along with Hamas deputy leader Salah al-Arouri in January.

“Hadi was involved in directing terror squads and in terror activities on the ground, including advancing attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets in various countries throughout the world,” the IDF said in a statement.

Firefighters douse a burning car after it was hit in a reported Israeli drone attack in Lebanon’s southern area of Tyre on March 13, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

However, a source from the terror group told Reuters that Mustafa was not a senior figure.

Two security sources said a Syrian man who was passing by on his motorcycle was also killed in the strike.

All three sources said the drone hovered in the air above the site of the strike for several minutes after it was carried out.

Israel later released a video showing the strike, apparently taken from the drone.

The attack threatened to push already-raised tensions to new heights, with Israel repeatedly warning that it would be forced to launch a military campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon if diplomatic efforts to end the attacks and push the terror group away from Israel’s border were not successful.

On Tuesday, Hezbollah that it launched “more than 100 Katyusha rockets” at two military bases in the Golan Heights. There were no reports of damage or injuries from the Hezbollah rockets, with footage showing some of the projectiles being intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system.

Hezbollah said the attacks were a response to an Israeli strike Monday night near Baalbek, a Hezbollah bastion deep inside Lebanon bordering Syria to the east. The IDF said it had targeted facilities belonging to Hezbollah’s “aerial unit.” The terrorist organization claimed one civilian was killed in the strike.

Since October 8, Hezbollah-led forces have attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the border on a near-daily basis, with the group saying it is doing so to support Gaza amid the war against the Hamas terror group.

The strikes have drawn daily Israeli responses. Most of the skirmishes, however, have been contained to areas near the border.

Wednesday morning saw fresh rocket launches against northern Israel, setting off sirens in the northern kibbutz of Hanita. One rocket fell short in Lebanese territory, while two landed in open fields in the Golan Heights and caused no injuries.

Israel has not claimed responsibility for a January 2 strike in southern Beirut that killed Arouri and Fandi, but on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted that it was behind it, saying in a public statement that Israel had taken out the terror group’s fourth highest-ranking figure, and would come after its other leaders as well.

People walk past a damaged building in the aftermath of an overnight Israeli airstrike on the city of Baalbek in east central Lebanon on March 12, 2024 (AFP)

War in Gaza between Israel and Hamas broke out on October 7 with the terror group’s unprecedented attack on Israel’s south in which terrorists murdered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped 253.

Israel has hit more than 4,500 Hezbollah targets in Lebanon since the start of the war in the Gaza Strip, the IDF said on Tuesday.

According to the IDF’s estimates, more than 300 Hezbollah operatives have been killed, including five senior commanders, and 750 have been wounded by Israeli strikes across five months of daily skirmishes along the border. Hezbollah has claimed 244 members were killed.

Another 40 operatives from other terror groups have also been killed in strikes on southern Lebanon, as well as a Lebanese soldier and at least 30 civilians, three of whom were journalists.

The near-daily exchange of fire along the shared Israel-Lebanon border has caused seven civilian deaths on the Israeli side as well as the deaths of 10 IDF soldiers and reservists.

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