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Israeli Strike Killing Key Hezbollah Figure Risks Dangerous Escalation

Tensions are escalating on the Israeli border with Lebanon after an Israeli strike on Monday that resulted in the death of a senior Hezbollah commander and another Hezbollah fighter in southern Lebanon. 

Monday’s attack follows the assassination in Lebanon last week of deputy Hamas leader Saleh Al Arouri in another Israeli strike. 

Unnamed sources confirmed for Reuters that Israel was behind Monday’s attack, which killed the deputy leader of Hezbollah’s elite Radwan force, Wissam Al Tawil. The Israeli strike targeted the car Al Tawil was driving in along with another Hezbollah fighter. 

A source told Reuters that Monday’s assassination would see the situation “flare up now”, suggesting the Israel-Gaza conflict may have definitively moved into Lebanon.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday vowed to “do everything necessary to restore security to the north", the BBC reported. 

The past three months have seen dozens killed, including Hezbollah fighters, Israeli soldiers and civilians, though Hezbollah has been holding back in order to prevent an escalation into all-out war with Israel. 

Observers are now concerned that two key assassinations in a row, and most significantly, Monday’s attack on a prominent Hezbollah figure could push the Iran-backed group over the edge. 

Oil prices on Monday did not respond to these dangerous developments on the Israel-Lebanon front, instead shedding over 4% on Monday afternoon in response to demand concerns triggered by Saudi Arabia’s move to cut the official selling prices (OSPs) for its crude loading in February to all regions. Cuts for Asian importers were the biggest, at $2 per barrel for all Saudi export grades, making the biggest cut in 13 months. 

Last week’s oil inventory build in the United States as well as a survey showing increased OPEC production in December have also put downward pressure on oil prices. 

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By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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