Israel’s Kan reported over the weekend that the man responsible for Hezbollah’s elite Radwan force unit, is Ibrahim Aqil, a Hezbollah terrorist who has been sanctioned in the past by the United States.
The report noted that the Radwan force includes many of Hezbollah’s elite fighters and that this force has suffered casualties in the last sixty days of tension with Israel in the north. Hezbollah has lost more than 100 fighters, injured and killed, since October 7 when Hezbollah began to launch rockets, drones and mortars at Israel to back Hamas.
The report said that Aqil is “also the one who is largely responsible over the last two years for the movement of Radwan personnel toward Israel’s northern border.” The Kan report then noted that under Aqil’s leadership, the elite force has seen several operational failures.“Dozens of failed launches of anti-tank missiles have led to casualties and damage to property on the Lebanese side.” In addition, “following the [pause in fighting on November 24], the presence of the Radwan force in the border area has decreased compared to the period before October 8, when Hezbollah joined the fighting….Since the fire was renewed yesterday in the north, Aqil continues to conduct his war effort despite the many failures and deaths in the first round.”
Hezbollah has failed but real threats persist
The main gist of this discussion is to highlight the fact that this known Hezbollah terrorist has failed. Nevertheless, the Radwan force and Hezbollah in general remain a major threat.
The Alma Research and Education Center noted on November 29 that “Hezbollah’s Radwan unit is capable of invading the Galilee at any given moment.”
That report noted that Hezbollah has had to shift some of its posture in the wake of October 7. “Even if most of the Radwan operatives have distanced themselves from the border since the beginning of the war, in our assessment this does not neutralize their ability to fulfill their main objective. It is our assessment that the Radwan unit is continuing to collect intelligence near the border and is making adjustments to its operational plans.”
Furthermore, the report noted that “as of this writing, around 90 Hezbollah operatives have been killed since October 7. It seems that some of those killed were operatives and commanders in the Radwan unit. The number of operatives killed has no bearing on Hezbollah’s overall competence or the Radwan unit in particular.”
Aqil is a central figure in Hezbollah. He played a role in Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian war after 2011, according to a July 2021 article by Matthew Levitt at Middle East Institute. He is a member of the group’s “Jihad council.” He was sanctioned by the US to the tune of $7 million in April 2023. The reward noted that “Ibrahim Aqil, also known as Tahsin, serves on Hizballah’s highest military body, the Jihad Council.
During the 1980s, Aqil was a principal member of the Islamic Jihad Organization—Hizballah’s terrorist cell—that claimed the bombings of the US Embassy in Beirut in April 1983, which killed 63 people, and the US Marine barracks in October 1983, which killed 241 US personnel.” It also noted he had been involved in hostage-taking and that on July 21, 2015, the US Department of the Treasury designated Aqil and in 2019 added him to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists.
The overall trajectory of Aqil and his role in the current Hezbollah tensions remains unclear. Whether Hezbollah has failed in Lebanon and this failure has led to losses for the group, or whether the group sees this as a success, will take time to tell. This is because, although Hezbollah has suffered losses, its threats continue. It has a lot of military hardware and numerous fighters.