MARJAYOUN, Lebanon — Iranian-backed guerrillas killed a top pro-Israeli militia leader Sunday in southern Lebanon, heightening tensions that could undermine chances of peace between Syria and Israel.
Israel promised retaliation, and aircraft made nighttime raids on targets in guerrilla-controlled territory.
Lebanese officials said Col. Akl Hashem--the second-highest-ranking leader in the South Lebanon Army militia--was working in an orchard near his house when a bomb went off, killing him instantly.
Hashem, 48, was regarded as the likely successor to Gen. Antoine Lahad, 70, who commands the militia.
The Iranian-backed Hezbollah group claimed responsibility in a radio broadcast, calling Hashem a criminal and saying his assassination was a great "achievement in the framework of dismantling" the SLA.
The SLA's 2,500 soldiers help 1,500 Israeli troops control a swath of Israeli-occupied southern Lebanon. Israel uses the area as a buffer against guerrilla attacks on its northern towns. Syria has more than 35,000 troops in Lebanon and is the country's main power broker.