MS Risk Blog

A Dangerous Escalation: Tensions Between Israel and Lebanon Raise Fears of Wider Conflict

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Amidst the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel the escalating tensions between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon have been overshadowed. Prime Minister Netanyahu said on Sunday that the intense phase of the war in Gaza with Hamas is about to end which has two potential outcomes, either Israel moves its resources to the Hezbollah front or less likely is getting ready for a ceasefire in Gaza which is one of the preconditions to de-escalate tensions with Hezbollah.

Recent times have seen an increase in Hezbollah’s attacks and counterattacks against Israel, casting uncertainty over the region’s future. International organizations such as the United Nations, as well as Western governments like Germany, France and the United States have made efforts to de-escalate the situation and prevent a full-scale war. However, there are big gaps in the negotiation talks and now Israeli military officials are speaking more loudly and open about war.

In a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron, former Israeli Defence Minister and IDF Chief of Staff MK Benny Gantz said that the likelihood of a diplomatic resolution to cross-border violence is decreasing, making conflict more probable. On the other hand, neighbouring nations like Iran have backed Lebanon and issued stark warnings to Israel, threatening annihilation should they launch a full-scale attack. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nazala in his latest message said that in case of war his army would fight without restraints and without rules

Additionally, Iran-aligned Iraqi militias have declared a state of high alert, expressing their readiness to join Hezbollah in any conflict and threatening to target U.S. interests should Washington side with Israel. Moreover, Hezbollah’s warning against Cyprus should it support Israel in an attack on Lebanon by providing their airports intensified the situation as it threated an EU member state.

Hezbollah’s attacks on southern Israeli towns have significantly heightened tensions, with rocket sirens blaring and incoming missiles causing alarm. A drone fired from Lebanese Hezbollah injured 18 Israeli soldiers, one of the highest single casualty incidents since his below opened fire on October 8th. This strategic tactic by Hezbollah which aims to inflict distress on the Israeli population situated in Northern Israel with more than 60,000 Israelis evacuating their homes, has caused Israel to reevaluate its strategy. This strategic tactic by Hezbollah which is looking at imposing pain on the Israeli population situated in Northern Israel with more than 60,000 Israelis evacuating their homes, making Israels Northen region unstable and unsafe Hezbollah is steadily making the region uninhabitable.  This tactic is prompting Israel to reconsider its strategy in order to avert further conflict. On the other side of the boarder, 90,000 Lebanese have also packed up and moved north far from the fires.

In response to the escalating tensions, the Israeli army has started deploying troops near the Lebanon border as part of military exercises simulating a potential conflict. Footage released by the army showcases the exercises, which aim to prepare for a possible full-scale war with Hezbollah. The Golani Brigade’s 12th Brigade has conducted drills simulating combat in complex terrain, according to a military statement. The 55th Reserve Paratroopers Brigade has also performed a series of exercises encompassing various combat scenarios, including manoeuvres in challenging terrains and advancing along mountainous routes demonstrating their commitment to preparedness in the face of escalating tensions.

Meanwhile, Lebanon has also been preparing for potential conflict. Saudi Arabia made a $10 million financial contribution to Lebanon on Tuesday, July 2, through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre. Furthermore, Qatar has provided the Lebanese army with a new $20 million tranche of financial aid, demonstrating its sustained support for the military institution in the face of present circumstances.

 Hezbollah which was once seen as a poorly sourced militant group that could carry out occasional bombings and small hit and run attacks now holds capabilities associated with professional state militaries. Its fighting force now includes around 100,000 soldiers most of whom are battle hardened from Syria. It also possesses a stockpile of rockets and ballistic missiles as well as anti-air, anti-tank and anti-ship missiles which pose a genuine strategic threat to Israel such as the Fajr-5 which has a range of 75km, the Khaibar with a range of 100km and the Zelzal-1/2 with a range of 210km which can hit targets as far as Tel Aviv.

As tensions continue to escalate between Israel and Hezbollah, both sides are preparing for potential conflict while the international community watches with growing concern. The possibility of a war like the one seen in 2006 looms large, but Israel has warned that this time the consequences could be far more severe. The situation is further complicated the involvement of other Arab nations, who have expressed support for Lebanon, potentially widening the scope of conflict and adding more parties to the fray. A full-scale war between Hezbollah and Israel would be terrible for both, as seen by 8 months of convectional fighting in Gaza.

In addition, like Hamas, Hezbollah also has tunnel networks that run underground across Lebanon which are believed to be even more extensive than the ones used by Hamas.

In summary, the escalating tension is rapidly pushing towards all-out war, deteriorating security in the region. This escalation threatens to cause significant casualties and economic damage to both states, far outweighing any potential benefits of war. So far Israel and Hezbollah have kept the escalations within the current framework and have used the UN force in Lebanon as backdoor channel for dialogue, however, it is unclear how long this will continue.