A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has announced over the weekend that Hezbollah has escalated its attacks against northern Israel which risks “dragging Lebanon into a war.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday issued the same words in his own warning for Hezbollah, saying it must avoid making “the mistake of its life” by deciding to join the war in partnership with Hamas.
“If Hezbollah decides to enter the war, it will long for the Second Lebanon War,” Netanyahu said in comments made before a unit of elite commando forces in northern Israel. “It will be making the mistake of its life. We will hit it with a force it cannot even imagine, and the meaning for it and the Lebanese state will be devastating.”
Since the Oct.7 Hamas attack on southern Israel there have been a handful of casualties on either side of the Lebanese border. In at least one instance so far, Hezbollah scored a direct hit on an IDF military vehicle, which likely resulted in Israeli troop deaths and injuries. The group backed by Iran uploaded the video to the internet in order to show off its advanced capabilities.
Israel has in response sent artillery and missiles against Hezbollah positions, as well as against some residential areas of south Lebanon. Americans and other foreigners have been heeding warnings to get out of Lebanon while they still can.
Typically if a broader conflict involving Lebanon opens up, Israel strikes Beirut–Rafic Hariri International Airport, the only commercial airport in Lebanon, as it did in 2006.
Hawks within Israel and the US want to use this to deliver a ‘death blow’ to Hezbollah, which is by all accounts a more formidable and better-armed force than Hamas in Gaza, as The Guardian underscores, “The Israeli government is coming under growing pressure from security establishment hawks to launch a pre-emptive strike on Hezbollah in Lebanon – but is facing strong opposition from the US, which fears a two-front war would risk igniting a major regional conflict.”
Israeli PM Netanyahu, a former member of Sayeret Matkal, speaking to Israeli commandos near Lebanon: “If Hezbollah goes to war with Israel, it will make the mistake of its life.”pic.twitter.com/QNbEhbymtI
— Lucas Tomlinson (@LucasFoxNews) October 22, 2023
Others want Israel to focus on Gaza, in order not to get bogged down in a conflict that could overwhelm Israel’s military:
But President Biden used his time in Tel Aviv on Wednesday and visits by top US defence officials in the days before, to urge the Israeli leadership not to risk such a pre-emptive strike on the Iran-backed militia, the New York Times reported, and prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu ultimately cooled on the idea.
Still, Israel is clearly taking measures to prepare for a possible all-out fight on its northern border, at this point having evacuated dozens of communities which lie within two kilometers of the border.
On Sunday, the defense minister confirmed that another 14 towns and villages have been told to evacuate, in addition to the 28 initially ordered to do so last week. “According to the IDF and Defense Ministry, the 14 communities being added to the list are: Snir, Dan, Beit Hillel, She’ar Yashuv, Hagoshrim, Liman, Matzuva, Eylon, Goren, Gornot HaGalil, Even Menachem, Sasa, Tziv’on and Ramot Naftali,” Times of Israel details.
An active battlefront…
Hostilities between #Hezbollah & #Israel ratcheted up a notch today — tonight, the @IDF hit back with the heaviest artillery shelling yet, across parts of south #Lebanon, with reports of an airstrike in #Jezzine, deeper in the interior.
An active battle front now. pic.twitter.com/MXxAxQ8KUO
— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) October 21, 2023
Hezbollah has not only been using anti-tank missiles, but has rolled out with guided missiles amid ongoing fire exchanged between both sides. Israel has lately stood accused of using controversial white phosphorus shells as well.
A broader war would likely bring Iran and Israel into a direct clash, and possibly Syria too. On Sunday Israel attacked Damascus and Aleppo international airports for the third time this month.
— EHA News (@eha_news) October 22, 2023
The scenario becomes all the more dangerous given the presence of US carrier strike groups in the region, and more recently some six Chinese warships in Mideast waters, watching the situation closely. And Russia has of course long had a strong military presence in Syria.