Hezbollah denies Israel claim it killed half of commanders in south Lebanon

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Hezbollah denied on Thursday an Israeli claim that it had killed half of the Iran-backed Lebanese group’s commanders in the south of the country, saying only a handful were slain.

The Lebanese group 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.

Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav 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.

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“The other half are in hiding and abandoning the field to IDF (Israeli army) operations,” he added, without specifying how many.

A Hezbollah source who spoke on condition of anonymity rejected the claim.

The source told AFP that 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 said Gallant’s claim was “untrue and baseless” and designed to “raise the morale of the collapsed (Israeli) army.”

Israel has frequently claimed to have killed local Hezbollah commanders in targeted strikes, but the group has only confirmed a few were high-level members, referring to the rest as fighters in their statements.

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.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced on both sides.

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 also said on Wednesday that it had struck 40 Hezbollah targets in Lebanon’s south.

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

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