As the Gaza war escalates, tensions rise along Israel’s volatile northern border with Lebanon

 – Gudstory

As the Gaza war escalates, tensions rise along Israel’s volatile northern border with Lebanon – Gudstory

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Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, said on Wednesday that if the international community and the Lebanese government do not rein in Hezbollah, Israel will. Israel’s army chief, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, said the army is in a state of extreme readiness and has approved plans if it decides to open a second front in the north.

The fighting on Israel’s northern border began when Hezbollah began firing rockets shortly after a cross-border attack by Hamas on October 7, sparking the war in Gaza.

While less intense than the fighting in Gaza, the simultaneous fighting has caused destruction, displacement and death on both sides and raised fears of a wider regional war.

Here’s a look at the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah:

What is involved in fighting?

Hezbollah fighters have been attacking Israeli posts and villages along the border and the group has launched rockets and drones toward Israeli positions. Israeli tanks, artillery and aircraft are attacking the Lebanese side of the border. Fighting has been mostly brief, but almost daily.

The Israeli military says more than 1,700 rockets have been fired from Lebanon toward Israel, killing 15 Israelis, including nine soldiers, and wounding more than 150.

Israel has evacuated about 60,000 people from more than 40 northern communities, including the main city of Kiryat Shemona, which has 22,000 residents. Israeli media outlets have broadcast footage of damaged homes and barren communities, with Israeli soldiers guarding empty streets.

According to the International Organization for Migration, about 74,500 people have been displaced by the fighting on the Lebanese side.

According to an Associated Press tally, about 160 people have been killed in Israeli airstrikes and shelling in Lebanon. Most of them were fighters from Hezbollah and allied groups, but at least 19 civilians, including journalists and children, were also killed.

Human rights groups and local officials have also accused Israel of attacking Lebanese border areas with shells containing controversial incendiary ammunition, white phosphorus. The attacks have burned hundreds of hectares (acres) of farmland and forests and injured civilians. Israel says all its actions are in line with international law.

Why are they fighting?

Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah are longtime arch enemies, dating back to Israel’s occupation of parts of southern Lebanon from 1982 to 2000.

In 2006, after Hezbollah fighters ambushed an Israeli patrol and took two Israeli soldiers hostage, the two sides fought a fierce month-long war that ended in a draw – but not before Israeli bombardment devastated southern Lebanon and Beirut. There was no widespread destruction in some parts of the country.

Barring sporadic skirmishes and sporadic tensions, the border area had been largely peaceful since that war. Israel estimates that Hezbollah has about 150,000 rockets and missiles in its arsenal, many of which could strike anywhere in Israel, including the economic capital Tel Aviv.

Hezbollah says its attacks are aimed at relieving pressure on the Gaza Strip, where Israel is waging an unprecedented ground, air and sea offensive aimed at ousting Hamas and repatriating about 129 people held captive in the area. Is.

Iran connection

Although there is no evidence that Israel’s archenemy Iran ordered the October 7 attack, its fingerprints are visible throughout the ensuing conflict.

In addition to Iran’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah, Iran-backed groups in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq have launched attacks on Israel and its allies in support of Hamas.

In the Red Sea, attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen on ships they believe are linked to Israel have disrupted trade and prompted the launch of a US-led multinational naval campaign to protect shipping routes. Has been inspired to.

Iran-backed militias in Iraq have also carried out dozens of attacks on US military bases in Iraq and Syria, which they say are in retaliation for Washington’s support for Israel.

And on Monday, Iranian state media blamed Israel for an attack on a Damascus neighborhood that killed a high-ranking Iranian general.

Amos Harel, a military commentator for the daily Haaretz newspaper, wrote on Wednesday that the general’s killing is a message to Iran that it can no longer enjoy immunity while its proxies attack Israel.

“This brings us closer to the possibility of an escalation against Hezbollah and even the Iranians on the northern front,” he wrote.

What is the role of Hezbollah?

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah faces a risky balancing act.

Joining Hamas would risk dragging Lebanon, which is reeling from an economic crisis and internal political tensions, into a conflict it cannot afford, thereby stoking domestic opposition to the group. The World Bank has already said the clashes are likely to harm Lebanon’s economy.

Lebanon is in its fourth year of a severe economic crisis and is deeply divided between Hezbollah and its allies and opponents, paralyzing the political system.

But having Israeli troops completely sidelined during the fighting in the Gaza Strip could compromise Hezbollah’s credibility, and a defeat for Hamas would be a blow to Iran.

Hezbollah has been careful to limit its attacks on Israel, keeping the threat of widespread escalation open.

Sheikh Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s deputy leader, said Thursday, “If Israel goes too far, we will respond doubly.” “We will not be intimidated by Israeli or American threats or intimidation.”

A new front for Israel?

With its troops trapped in Gaza, Israel has tried to limit the fighting mostly to its north. Hezbollah’s military capabilities are far superior to Hamas.

Nevertheless, Israeli officials continue to warn that the country is prepared for an extension of the fighting and that Hezbollah must be prepared to pay a price for its losses over the past three months.

Israel already has strong forces in the north and may turn its sights on Hezbollah once it reduces or ends the war in Gaza.

Israel’s top ally, the US, which has sent military reinforcements to the region, says it prefers to see a negotiated resolution to rising tensions rather than another war front.

Israel also wants Hezbollah to adhere to a 2006 UN ceasefire agreement, which states that the border areas in southern Lebanon be free of “any armed personnel, property and weapons” other than Lebanese government forces and UN peacekeepers. Needed”. Under the proposal, Hezbollah must do so. There is no military presence in the border area.

Lebanon, meanwhile, argues that Israel violates the resolution by its air force’s continued entry into Lebanese airspace and its presence in Chebaa Farms, a disputed area on the country’s border with the Golan Heights, which was annexed by Israel in 1967. Is territory seized from Syria.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said on Wednesday that Hezbollah must respect the 2006 ceasefire. Otherwise, he warned, Nasrallah “will have to understand that he is next.”

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Published: 29 Dec 2023, 12:57 am IST


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