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May 23, 2024

Escalating Tensions Along Israel’s Northern Border Raise War Fears

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Jan 21, 2024

Two Killed in Alleged Israeli Drone Strike in Southern Lebanon as Militants Fire Rockets into Israel’s North

Tensions along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon escalated sharply over the weekend, raising fears of a potential wider conflict between Israel and the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah.

At least two Hezbollah members were killed in an alleged Israeli drone strike on a vehicle in southern Lebanon on Saturday, according to Lebanese security sources. The strike came after militants fired several rockets from southern Lebanon into northern Israel on Friday, with one rocket killing an Israeli woman and her 7-year-old son.

Israel has not officially commented on the strike in Lebanon, but if confirmed it would mark a significant escalation in the long-running tensions between the bitter enemies.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has vowed to retaliate for any Israeli attacks on Lebanese soil. On Friday, he dared Israel to attack, saying Hezbollah was ready on all fronts.

Back and Forth Attacks Raise War Fears

The weekend’s events are the latest in a series of back and forth attacks along the Israel-Lebanon border:

  • On Friday, militants fired several rockets from Lebanon into northern Israel, killing a 52-year-old woman and her 7-year-old son and wounding several others. Israel responded with artillery fire into Lebanon.

  • Hours later, a terror squad infiltrated Israel from Lebanon and wounded five Israeli soldiers before being killed.

  • On Saturday, an alleged Israeli drone strike targeted a vehicle carrying Hezbollah members in southern Lebanon, killing at least two militants according to Lebanese reports.

  • Israel reportedly conducted airstrikes on Hezbollah infrastructure in the Lebanonese town of Ramiya overnight Saturday into Sunday morning.

  • Hezbollah retaliated by firing a guided missile at an Israeli military vehicle along the border on Sunday, destroying it. Two Israeli soldiers were injured.

Both sides have traded threats over the weekend, with Hezbollah promising retaliation and Israel warning that Lebanon would pay a “heavy price” for any attacks.

The fighting has raised fears that the decades-old conflict between Israel and Hezbollah could erupt into a full-blown war, threatening to further destabilize the already turbulent region.

Weekend of Violence Follows Months of Rising Tensions

This weekend’s bloody back and forth came after months of rising tensions between Israel and Hezbollah along the Lebanese border:

Date Event
October 2023 Israel shoots down Hezbollah drones that entered Israeli airspace
November 2023 Hezbollah fires several rockets into northern Israel
December 2023 Israel bombs Hezbollah military sites in Lebanon
January 2024 Series of infiltrations and attacks across the Israel-Lebanon border

While such flare-ups are not uncommon, their frequency and intensity have increased noticeably since late last year as Iran appears to be directing Hezbollah to step up pressure on Israel to distract from domestic turmoil inside Iran.

Nasrallah ‘Dares’ Israel as Domestic Support Wanes

Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel over the past months come as its chief Hassan Nasrallah faces waning domestic support in Lebanon and criticism for sticking too closely to his Iranian patrons.

By targeting Israel, Nasrallah aims to burnish his credentials as an anti-Israel defender of Arabs and Muslims. His calculus appears to be that another war with Israel could rally domestic support behind Hezbollah and take attention away from Lebanon’s dire economic situation, for which his group faces blame.

However, Nasrallah is playing a dangerous game, as even Hezbollah’s traditional backers have little appetite for another ruinous war with Israel at this time.

So while limited skirmishes across the Israeli border generate headlines and fan nationalism, a wider conflict threatens to isolate Hezbollah at home and regionally.

Wider War Would Be Devastating for Lebanon

A wider armed conflict between Israel and Hezbollah risks devastating consequences for Lebanon and its people. The 2006 war led to the deaths of over 1,000 Lebanese civilians and wreaked enormous damage across Lebanese towns and infrastructure.

With Lebanon already ravaged by financial collapse and hyperinflation, another war could represent a knockout blow, further immiserating Lebanese civilians.

Aware of the risks but feeling domestic pressure, the fragile Lebanese government has so far avoided outright condemnation of Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel. However, behind the scenes Prime Minister Najib Mikati has reportedly pressed Hezbollah to de-escalate tensions with Israel.

The national mood in Lebanon remains firmly opposed to another war, but the population feels held hostage by Hezbollah’s independent foreign policy.

International Community Calls for Restraint on Both Sides

An array of international stakeholders, including the United States, France, Russia and the United Nations, have called for maximum restraint and urged both sides to avoid further escalation.

The Biden administration issued a statement backing Israel’s right to self-defense while cautioning it against unnecessary provocation, reflecting a longstanding American policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Behind the scenes, U.S. diplomats are reportedly lobbying allies in the region to use their influence with relevant actors to prevent further flare-ups that could ignite a regional war.

However, if another war seemed imminent or has already begun, the calculus in Washington on whether and how to intervene could shift dramatically given broader U.S. policy priorities in the region.

Israel Vows Harsh Response to Continued Attacks

While so far retaliating largely with airstrikes on suspected Hezbollah positions, Israeli political and military leaders over the weekend threatened harsher responses if attacks from Lebanon continue.

New hardline National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has taken a particularly hawkish stance, reportedly urging the military to prepare plans for a wider offensive targeting Lebanese infrastructure in event of a war.

More moderate voices like Foreign Minister Eli Cohen have called for restraint, mindful of Israel’s fragile international standing. However, Cohen and others argue that sustained rocket attacks may leave Israel little choice but to hit back hard.

The Israeli cabinet is set to meet Sunday to weigh its options should the situation continue to deteriorate. Meanwhile, the military has shifted some troops from Gaza to the northern border in anticipation of possible ground operations into Lebanon.

With Prime Minister Netanyahu presiding over Israel’s most right-wing government ever, the country’s threshold for launching major military action appears lower than in recent memory.

Gaza Risks Being Drawn Into Wider Conflict

The possibility of war on Israel’s northern border comes less than two years after an intense 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza.

While Hezbollah and Hamas have distinct command structures and areas of operation, analysts warn the groups could seek to mount coordinated or at least concurrent strikes on Israel in event of a war.

Such a scenario risks further inflaming an already volatile situation and makes the current crisis particularly dangerous in terms of a potential regional conflagration.

Aware of these risks, Israeli, Egyptian and international mediators have opened emergency talks aimed at ensuring calm prevails in Gaza as tensions boil in the north.

However, with over 2 million essentially trapped civilians, the Gaza strip remains uniquely vulnerable to eruption as external conflicts rage around it.

Unpredictable Conflict Risks Unforeseeable Consequences

While neither Hezbollah nor Israel likely desires an imminent full-scale war, the long-bitter enemies appear locked in an unpredictable cycle of attack and reprisal along Lebanon’s tense southern border.

Minor tactical miscalculations by field commanders on either side, or even accidental cross-border fire, hold potential to spark a dramatic escalation that could be difficult to control.

Once begun, the multifaceted nature of the conflict, emotive quality of the historical enmity and array of state and non-state actors make the outcome of war extremely difficult to foresee.

As in all wars, unintended consequences could abound – chief among them further loss of civilian life and livelihoods.

With so much at stake for millions of ordinary people on both sides of the border, leaders face an unenviable choice: risk looking weak by refraining from confrontation or risk unpredictable catastrophe by stumbling into war.

The coming days could prove critical in determining which path prevails along Israel’s tense northern frontier.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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