IDF says Hezbollah’s coastal rocket commander killed in drone strike

Military says Qassem Saqlawi, targeted near Tyre in south Lebanon, carried out many attacks on Israel amid war; three drones from Iraq, Syria downed by fighter jets, warship

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Qassem Saqlawi, a top Hezbollah rocket commander killed in an Israeli drone strike in southern Lebanon, May 20, 2024. (Hezbollah media office)
Qassem Saqlawi, a top Hezbollah rocket commander killed in an Israeli drone strike in southern Lebanon, May 20, 2024. (Hezbollah media office)

The commander of Hezbollah’s rocket and missile unit in the terror group’s coastal division was killed in an airstrike Monday, the Israel Defense Forces announced.

Qassem Saqlawi was targeted in a drone strike while driving in the Tyre area in southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah announced Saqlawi’s death following the strike, saying he was killed “on the road to Jerusalem,” its term for operatives slain in Israeli strikes. The terror group did not refer to Saqlawi as a commander or list a role for him.

The IDF said in a statement Tuesday morning that Saqlawi was responsible for planning and carrying out “many” rocket and anti-tank guided missile attacks on Israel amid the war, from the coastal region in south Lebanon.

The military says that more than 30 Hezbollah commanders have been killed in its strikes in southern Lebanon amid the war in the past seven months.

Meanwhile, several rockets were fired from Lebanon at the Western Galilee overnight, setting off sirens in the largely evacuated border communities of Netua, Even Menachem, Shomera, and Shtula.

The IDF said the projectiles struck open areas, causing no injuries. Hezbollah claimed to have targeted a group of Israeli troops in the attack.

In a separate attack Monday, an Israeli soldier was lightly hurt when rockets were fired at the Biranit army base on the Lebanon border, the military said.

The IDF said fighter jets hit a Hezbollah rocket launcher in southern Lebanon’s Ayta ash-Shab, used in attacks on Biranit throughout Monday.

In other strikes, the military said fighter jets hit two Hezbollah cells in southern Lebanon’s Odaisseh and Mays al-Jabal. A Hezbollah weapons depot was also hit in Naqoura, according to the IDF.

In addition to Saqlawi, Hezbollah announced the deaths of five more members on Monday, bringing the terror group’s toll amid the war to 309, most of whom were killed in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 61 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and dozens of civilians, three of whom were journalists, have been killed.

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 there.

A rocket fired from Lebanon strikes northern Israel, May 20, 2024. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

The skirmishes on the border have resulted in 10 civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 14 IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries, including late Monday.

Israeli fighter jets shot down a “suspicious aerial target,” thought to be a drone, that was heading toward Israel from the direction of Syria, the military said.

The apparent drone was downed outside of Israeli airspace, according to the IDF, and alerts were activated in open areas in the Golan Heights.

Separately, the IDF said fighter jets and one of the Navy’s Sa’ar 4.5-class missile ships shot down two more targets heading toward Israel from the “eastern direction” — believed to have originated in Iraq.

The announcement came as a twin drone attack on Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat was claimed by the Iran-backed Islamic Resistance in Iraq.

The apparent drones did enter Israeli airspace and no sirens sounded, the IDF said.

People in Eilat reported seeing interceptions.

Amid the ongoing war, Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria have claimed to have launched dozens of drones at Israel, with the IDF reporting downing many of them. Iran itself also carried out an unprecedented attack on Israel last month with hundreds of drones and missiles.

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