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July 17, 2024

Israel Issues Detailed Threat to Hezbollah as Gaza War Hits 4 Months

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Feb 5, 2024

Israel has issued its most detailed threat yet against the militant Hezbollah group in Lebanon, warning that any future war would be devastating for both sides. The threats come as Israel marks four months of fighting against Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Escalating Tensions Along Northern Border

Tensions have been escalating along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon in recent days and weeks. On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant toured the frontier with senior military commanders and issued warnings to Hezbollah.

He said that while Israel is not eager to battle Hezbollah, the military is prepared for war and “its nose is pointed northward.” He delivered the message from a vantage point overlooking Lebanese territory, where international peacekeepers patrol the border.

“The last weeks have seen a concerning increase in Hezbollah’s threats through words and actions,” Gallant said. “And we do not take their readiness lightly.”

Gallant’s warnings follow reports last week that Hezbollah revealed new, advanced missile capabilities and conducted an intelligence-gathering operation over an Iron Dome defense battery during Israel’s latest round of fighting with Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza.

Retaliatory Strikes Continue

On Sunday, Hezbollah pounded IDF posts and facilities in northern Israel with mortars and explosives in retaliation for Israeli airstrikes on Hezbollah sites in Lebanon a day earlier. This follows a pattern seen in recent months of tit-for-tat attacks along the volatile border.

Since October, Israel says it has struck over 50 Hezbollah-related targets in Syria and over 3,400 Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, though it rarely publicly acknowledges responsibility for specific strikes.

Hezbollah firing positions in southern Lebanon have also frequently been struck in reported Israeli retaliatory raids.

Date Incident
Oct. 7, 2022 Hezbollah fires multiple rockets at IDF positions
Nov. 28, 2022 IAF strikes Hezbollah weapons depot in Syria
Jan. 2, 2023 Hezbollah fires anti-tank missiles at IDF vehicles
Feb. 3, 2023 IAF bombs Hezbollah sites across Lebanon

This ongoing violence has raised tensions and fears that miscalculation by either side could spark a larger confrontation. Gallant said Israel has “an interest to protect the calm here, but we will not hesitate to act.”

Preparing for All-Out War

With violence flaring, both the Israeli military and civilian leadership in northern Israel are actively preparing for the possibility of all-out war.

The IDF has significantly boosted troop presence along the Lebanese frontier. It is also drilling for combat operations in northern towns and cities with exercises simulating urban warfare.

“We are refreshing operational plans for war in the North for the first time in 15 years,” said an IDF source.

Home Front Command units are also working with municipal officials to improve civil defenses. This includes reviewing evacuation plans and expanding bomb shelters. Hospitals in northern Israel are likewise drilling for emergency scenarios of mass casualty incidents.

At the same time, Israeli political leaders are speaking openly about the need to prepare the public for the eventuality of war. An Israeli minister said troops are likely to “go into action” soon along the Lebanese border in response to Hezbollah provocations.

Seeking International Support

Israeli diplomatic efforts have also intensified to garner international support in case hostilities erupt. This has included providing detailed intelligence to Western allies about Hezbollah activities threatening Israel.

The intention appears to be laying the groundwork to justify Israeli military action. There is concern Lebanon and parts of the international community would condemn any preemptive or disproportionate Israeli strikes.

“We have an open line with countries that know how to listen,” an Israeli military source said about intelligence sharing.

No End in Sight for Gaza Fighting

All of this is playing out as Israel nears the four month mark in its intense military campaign against Palestinian militant groups in Gaza. The fighting has been the deadliest exchange since the 2014 Gaza War.

What began as targeted strikes against the group Palestinian Islamic Jihad has morphed into a broader bombing campaign aimed at degrading all armed factions in the coastal enclave. This includes Hamas, which has refrained from directly attacking Israel but nonetheless had infrastructure and personnel impacted.

Daily Israeli airstrikes continue battering Gaza, albeit at lower intensities than during major escalations in August and October 2022. Gaza militant groups also sporadically fire rockets into Israel.

Casualty figures in Gaza have surpassed previous wars. The Gaza Health Ministry reports nearly 1,700 Palestinians killed so far, including hundreds of children. Over 12,000 have been wounded. On the Israeli side, 20 civilians and soldiers have died.

With neither side achieving decisive victory or being compelled to stand down, violence looks set to simmer for the foreseeable future. Israeli political and military leaders have vowed to continue strikes as long as they deem it necessary, regardless of international criticism about excessive force and the humanitarian crisis building in Gaza.

Hezbollah Tensions Constraining Israel

This presents strategic complications for Israel. Military resources are heavily committed to Gaza operations, making it more challenging to defend along other fronts.

There is awareness that Hezbollah may seek to exploit the situation and catch Israel off guard. Some analysts believe Hezbollah is purposefully raising tensions to pressure Israel into deescalating in Gaza.

“We are engaged in the north and busy in Gaza. I do not long for a third front,” Gallant stated plainly on Sunday about the dilemmas Israel faces.

Nonetheless, senior officials insist the IDF has capacity to handle concurrent wars. Reservist units would also be called up.

Others argue Israel should pivot to prioritizing the northern front given Hezbollah’s vast missile arsenal capable of heavily striking Israeli cities and infrastructure. Over 130,000 rockets are estimated in Hezbollah’s possession.

“The next war in the North will be worse than all the wars that have preceded it,” warned the head of Israel’s Northern Command.

Fears of Wider Regional Escalation

There are also worries in Israel about the Gaza fighting triggering wider regional escalation. The concern is that should the violence spread, the arrays of alliances and proxies in the region could quickly pull additional state and non-state actors into confrontation.

Analysts say the ingredients are present for spiraling escalation drawing in Hezbollah, Iran, and possibly even Syria. Such a scenario risks full-scale, multi-front war engulfing the region.

Israeli messaging about its readiness to battle Hezbollah serves to deter provocations that could set such a cycle in motion. At the same time, it recognizes missteps are possible.

Both sides are posturing to uphold deterrence while maintaining flexibility for limited tit-for-tat exchanges. Navigating this delicate balance greatly depends on preventing misperception. Yet with tensions soaring amidst the fog of ongoing fighting in Gaza, a spark for uncontrolled escalation lurks.

The coming weeks will prove pivotal in averting worst case scenarios. In the meantime, civilians on both sides of the border are bracing for the outbreak of hostilities few desire but see as increasingly inevitable without drastic deescalation measures they expect will not be taken.

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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.

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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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