Hezbollah denies Israel’s claim to have killed half of its commanders in south Lebanon

Source in Lebanon terror group says Gallant’s assertion ‘designed to raise morale of the collapsed Israeli army’ after months of fighting

Hezbollah members raise flags of the Lebanese terror group during the funeral of a commander and another operative who were killed by an Israeli drone strike, in Chehabiyeh village, south Lebanon, April 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)
Hezbollah members raise flags of the Lebanese terror group during the funeral of a commander and another operative who were killed by an Israeli drone strike, in Chehabiyeh village, south Lebanon, April 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

Hezbollah on Thursday denied Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s claim that Israeli forces have killed half of the Iran-backed terror group’s commanders in southern Lebanon, saying only a handful were slain.

Gallant said on Wednesday that “half of Hezbollah’s commanders in southern Lebanon have been eliminated” in the months of cross-border violence sparked by the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

“The other half are in hiding and abandoning the field to IDF operations,” he added, without specifying numbers.

A Hezbollah source who spoke on condition of anonymity with AFP rejected the claim, saying the number of slain Hezbollah members who “hold a certain level of responsibility does not exceed the number of fingers on one hand.”

The source argued that Gallant’s claim was “untrue and baseless” and designed to “raise the morale of the collapsed [Israeli] army.”

Israel has frequently reported killing local Hezbollah commanders in targeted strikes amid the months of fighting, but the group has only confirmed a few were high-level members, referring to the rest as fighters in statements.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant holds an assessment with the chief of the IDF Northern Command in Safed, Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin, and other top officers, April 24, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Hezbollah has been exchanging near-daily fire with the Israeli army since the day after its Palestinian ally Hamas carried out an unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7.

Since October 8, the day after the Hamas attack on southern Israel, at least 380 people have been killed in Lebanon, including 252 Hezbollah fighters and dozens of civilians according to an AFP tally.

Israel says 11 soldiers and eight civilians have been killed on its side of the border.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has said his group has some 100,000 trained and armed fighters, but analysts say this number is likely inflated.

Tens of thousands of people in Israel’s north and Lebanon’s south have been displaced by the fighting. Israel has threatened to go to war to force Hezbollah away from the border if it does not retreat and continues to threaten northern communities.

Both sides have stepped up attacks this week, with Hezbollah increasing rocket fire on military bases, while Gallant said in his latest remarks the army had carried out offensive action across southern Lebanon.

The Israeli military said on Wednesday that it had struck 40 Hezbollah targets in Lebanon’s south in the town of Ayta ash-Shab. The wave of strikes came hours after the terror group fired anti-tank missiles at a community in northern Israel. The military said the targets included weapon depots and other assets belonging to Hezbollah.

In a statement, the IDF said the strikes were “part of the effort to destroy the organization’s infrastructure in the border area,” and not a response to any specific attack.

Most Popular
read more: