Israel’s defense minister has said that the country’s military has eliminated half of Hezbollah’s commanders in southern Lebanon. But analysts doubt whether Israel’s increasing use of targeted killings would weaken the militant group.

Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon and is Iran’s most powerful regional proxy, has had intense cross-border clashes with Israeli forces ever since the Hamas-led attacks in Israel on Oct. 7. With little sign of the conflict abating and with diplomatic talks yet to result in a cease-fire, Israel has in recent months begun killing Hezbollah fighters in targeted strikes, reflecting an apparent shift in military strategy.

“Half of the Hezbollah commanders in southern Lebanon have been eliminated,” Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said during a visit on Wednesday to Israeli troops along the northern border with Lebanon. “The other half are in hiding,” he added, without providing a specific number or evidence of his claim.

A Hezbollah official and a senior Lebanese intelligence official, both of whom spoke anonymously to discuss the sensitive subject, denied Mr. Gallant’s numbers on Thursday.

Some experts expressed skepticism about whether Israel’s targeted killings could achieve its goal of pushing Hezbollah north of the Litani River in Lebanon, thereby preventing cross-border attacks and allowing the tens of thousands Israeli civilians displaced by the fighting to return.


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