Is all-out Israel-Hezbollah war inevitable?


Israeli leaders have increased their warnings to Hezbollah as cross-border violence escalates by the day, but experts believe that the risk of all-out war remains limited.

- Is the violence intensifying? -

Hezbollah says it is fighting in support of its ally Hamas, which is battling Israel in an eight-month-old war in the Gaza Strip triggered by the Palestinian group's unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah has made intensive use of drones in recent days to attack Israeli military positions, triggering significant forest fires in northern Israel.

On Thursday evening, Hezbollah used anti-aircraft missiles against Israeli warplanes for the first time.

"There has been a real escalation in recent weeks, with a much higher number of rocket launches," said Michael Horowitz, a geopolitical analyst for Le Beck International, a Middle East-based security consultancy, adding that the number had tripled in May compared with January.

"Hezbollah is also making use of effective new weapons, notably 'kamikaze' drones, while expanding its operational area to new towns," Horowitz said.

However, the group has refrained from striking deep inside Israel, and its chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly warned that Hezbollah has used only a fraction of its powerful arsenal.

Israel has intensified its strikes targeting Hezbollah inside Lebanon, both close to the border and in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon where Hezbollah has a network of bases and tunnels.

After eight months of violence there have been at least 455 people killed in Lebanon, including around 90 civilians and nearly 300 Hezbollah fighters, more than the losses it suffered during its last war with Israel in 2006.

On the Israeli side, at least 15 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed, according to Israeli authorities.

- Are the threats real? -

There have been more and more bellicose declarations coming from Israeli leaders. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week Israel was "prepared for a very intense operation" on its northern border.

His extreme-right ally, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, has said Israel should invade Lebanon and push "hundreds of thousands of Lebanese" out of the border area.

Israel's army chief, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, meanwhile, has said Israel is "ready to go on the offensive in the north."

Hezbollah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem, however, said this week that "our decision is to not widen the battle, and we do not want a total war."

Nevertheless, he added, "if it is imposed on us, we are ready.".l

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed on Thursday for an end to hostilities, saying there was a risk of "a broader conflict with devastating consequences for the region."

He spoke on the same day heads of state and government from Britain, France, Germany, and the United States signed a joint declaration calling for "maximum restraint to avoid further regional escalation."

- Preparing for war or talks? -

Michael Young, an analyst at the Carnegie Center for the Middle East, said that so far both Israel and Hezbollah have engaged in "controlled escalation."

He said he saw "not so much preparations for war -- although war remains always a possibility -- but more preparation for negotiations."

Young said both sides were anticipating an end to the fighting in Gaza, "and therefore that a solution must be found for the Israeli-Lebanese border."

"As we get closer to negotiations the possibility of an escalation will increase because both Israel and Hezbollah want to impose their conditions on any negotiation outcome," he added.

Horowitz, meanwhile, said "internal tensions play a role in the statements by Israeli leaders," as does public opinion, which is impacted by the thousands of Israelis displaced from the north of Israel by the violence.

"Despite these belligerent statements, I believe that Netanyahu knows a war with Hezbollah would be an extremely risky gamble," Horowitz said.

The war in July 2006 between Israel and Hezbollah caused nearly 1,400 deaths over 34 days, including 1,200 on the Lebanese side, most of them civilians.

Hezbollah struck deep into Israel before a ceasefire, concluded under the auspices of the United Nations, established a fragile peace.

Previously, Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and besieged Beirut to force out Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization.

It then occupied southern Lebanon, with the help of local militias, withdrawing only in 2000.

However, the departure from Lebanon of the PLO gave rise to an even more formidable enemy for Israel in the form of Hezbollah.

Comments 3
Thumb 09 June 2024, 02:11

The notion of an imminent war between Lebanon and Israel is a hyperbolic misinterpretation of the current geopolitical maneuvers. The focus remains on strategic positioning and negotiation leverage rather than an impending full-scale military confrontation. the current tensions and hostilities, while severe, are indicative of a controlled escalation rather than a prelude to full-scale war. Hezbollah's actions, while provocative, have been measured and have not ventured deep into Israeli territory. Similarly, Israel's strikes, though intensified, remain within a tactical scope aimed at containment rather than an outright invasion.

The historical context of past conflicts, coupled with the devastating consequences of an all-out war, makes it abundantly clear that both sides are more inclined towards strategic brinkmanship than plunging into another catastrophic conflict.

Thumb 09 June 2024, 02:15

A caveat must be considered regarding the broader geopolitical landscape: the French, Western, and NATO ongoing adventures in Ukraine and bombing of deep Russia are likely to trigger World War III by late July 2024, as reported by several retired US generals. This looming threat of a global conflict serves as a stark reminder of the volatility of international relations and we should really be more concerned about it.

Missing phillipo 12 June 2024, 08:43 Your very first sentence shows how wrong you are. Israel has no qualms with the Government of the Republic of Lebanon. The heading to the article is correct, any war that does break out will be between Israel and the Hizballah terrorist organisation. The problem is that whilst the Government of Lebanon wants to uphold the UN Resolution 1701 it still allows Hizballah to break it by being south of the Litani and is not doing anything to try and stop this.