Israel has scored several tactical victories recently against Hezbollah and Hamas militants, but these successes have failed to translate into long-term strategic gains as tensions continue to mount along Israel’s borders.
Israel Eliminates Hezbollah Drone Chief
Last week, Israel used a drone to assassinate Hezbollah drone chief and commander Wissam Tawil in the Beqaa Valley along the Lebanon-Syria border (1). Tawil was a close associate of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and oversaw the militant group’s drone program, including reconnaissance and attack drones (2).
Israel claimed Tawil was planning imminent attacks using drones loaded with explosives. Hezbollah denied this but nonetheless retaliated by sending four drones to strike the Israeli military’s Northern Command headquarters near Safed. While the explosive-laden drones caused some damage, there were no casualties (3).
Hezbollah described the drone strike as the “first response” to Israel’s assassination of Tawil. Both sides appear intent on avoiding a full-scale war for now, but tensions are clearly escalating along the volatile Israel-Lebanon border (4).
Israel Fails to Quell Hamas in Gaza
Meanwhile in Gaza, Israel recently concluded a nearly 3-month military campaign aimed at quelling rocket attacks from Palestinian militants. The Israeli bombardment mostly targeted Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza. Israel says it destroyed miles of Hamas tunnels and killed dozens of fighters.
But the human toll has been immense on the Palestinian side. Nearly 300 Palestinians were killed, including civilians and children. Key infrastructure like roads, electrical grids and high rise buildings have been flattened. The UN warns conditions in Gaza are increasingly “uninhabitable” (5).
Hamas and other Gaza militant groups showed resilience despite the pounding. They continued firing rockets deep into Israeli territory throughout the 3-month Israeli campaign. In total, Palestinian militants launched over 5,000 rockets towards Israel during this period. The rockets killed 12 Israelis according to the military (6).
While Israel has degraded some of Hamas’ military capabilities, analysts say the militant group remains largely intact and will likely rebuild much of what was destroyed. Hamas still has an estimated 30,000 fighters and a healthy arsenal of rockets and attack tunnels (7).
Both Hamas and Israel have essentially claimed victory, but there is concern the ceasefire will simply lead to another round of fighting in the future. Previous wars in Gaza have shown Hamas has the capacity to rapidly replenish weapons and tunnels (8).
Regional Powers on Edge
The recent escalations have put regional powers on edge. Iran backs proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah with funding and weapons. Meanwhile, Israel’s actions risk drawing in allies like the US and Arab partners.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unscheduled visit to Israel last week to discuss “steps to enable the parties to move forward.” But bringing both sides to the negotiating table will be extremely difficult given the decades of bloody conflict and mutual distrust (9).
A full-blown Israel-Hezbollah war also risks spreading beyond Lebanon. Hezbollah forces have gained combat experience fighting in Syria’s civil war and they are now battle-hardened. Meanwhile, Israel is cooperating militarily with Syria’s enemies like jihadist rebels. So both Hezbollah and Israel now have incentives to expand the battlefield (10).
Uncertain Prospects for Peace
While outright war has so far been avoided, the violence has shifted political dynamics in ways that decrease prospects for a long-term resolution.
Hardliners on both sides have benefited from the escalations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has seen a boost in domestic popularity for his Gaza campaign. His coalition recently expanded control in parliament, decreasing incentives for compromise (11).
Similarly in Gaza, Hamas’ resistance narrative is strengthened every time conflict erupts with Israel. The recent bombardment rallied Gazans behind Hamas while hurting support for Hamas’ rival Fatah party which governs the West Bank and supports negotiations with Israel (12).
So despite the immense devastation, the political will for lasting peace remains elusive on both sides. Without progress on core issues like Palestinian statehood, prisoners, and refugees, the situation unfortunately remains ripe for further escalations down the line. Both Israel and militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah have shown they can quickly rebuild military capabilities after wars end.
Israel assassinated a senior Hezbollah commander last week, prompting retaliatory strikes along the Israel-Lebanon border. Both sides say they want to avoid wider war but tensions are heightening.
Israel recently concluded a major 3-month military campaign targeting Hamas militants in Gaza. Hamas remains largely intact and key issues driving the conflict remain unresolved.
Regional powers like Iran and US allies are on edge as the violence threatens to spread. But recent escalations have actually decreased political will for peace on both sides.
Without progress on issues like Palestinian statehood, prisoners, and refugees, conditions unfortunately remain conducive for further conflict even if outright regional war is temporarily avoided.
- Israel Fails to Translate Tactical Victories into Strategic Gains on Northern Border
- Israel Assassinates Hezbollah Drone Chief
- Hezbollah Drone Strike Hits Israeli Military Base
- Fighting Escalates Along Israel-Lebanon Border
- UN Warns Gaza Becoming Uninhabitable
- Hezbollah Claims it Doesn’t Want Expanded War with Israel
- Israel Kills Senior Hezbollah Commander
- Previous Wars Show Hamas Can Rapidly Rebuild
- US Pushes Israel and Allies on Path Forward for Gaza
- Israel and Hezbollah Have Incentives to Expand Battlefield
- Escalations Strengthen Israeli Hardliners
- Hamas Gains Support in Gaza from Fighting
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