Global Upfront Newspapers
Cover Features

Are Israel And Lebanon Heading For Another War?

  • Hezbollah continues to develop its arsenal with a continued focus on precision guided munitions, and both Israel and Hezbollah watch for any change in the rules of engagements along the Blue Line

By   Chyrine Mezher, Breaking Defense, August 13, 2021

While tensions are high between Israel and the Shiite group Hezbollah in Lebanon, experts are skeptical another full-scale destructive war is likely. But given the state of the region right now, no one is ready to rule out smaller, potentially deadly confrontations.

On August 6, the long-term adversaries exchanged cross-border fires. It started when Hezbollah fired a bunch of rockets over Israel’s northern frontier, leading the latter to hit back with artillery, with no casualties reported on either side.

The clashes came at a time where Lebanon is facing multiple crises, including political deadlock that has left the country without a fully functioning executive authority and a devastating economic and financial collapse. And the rocket launches may be timed to two major anniversaries: the 15th anniversary of the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon, and the one year anniversary of the horrific explosion at Beirut’s port.

Purely on its face, the rhetoric from both Hezbollah and Israel has been fiery. Commenting on the incident, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah publicly expressed confidence about any future conflict. “We are fully prepared for the war, and we are certain that we will win it,” he said in a televised speech on August 7. And over the weekend, Israeli PM Naftali Bennett warned that Lebanon’s government would be held responsible for further attacks from within its territory.

But beyond the noise — during which Lebanon’s official government has been largely silent — experts see little indications that a major conflict akin to the 2006 war is near.

“There is no outward indication that Lebanon is preparing for an open conflict with Israel,” said Aram Nerguizian, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “After its most recent rocket salvo, it appears that Hezbollah immediately contacted the United Nations in Lebanon to convey the group’s position that it does not seek further escalation with Israel and a preference for de-escalation.”

This preference for de-escalation appears to have been reciprocated by Israel, with Israeli sources telling Breaking Defense earlier this week that Bennett’s new government is holding back for the moment.

Noted Nerguizian, “Hezbollah continues to develop its arsenal with a continued focus on precision guided munitions, and both Israel and Hezbollah watch for any change in the rules of engagements along the Blue Line — which, in the last exchange of fire, both worried had somehow changed.”

The Blue Line, stretching for 120km along Lebanon’s southern frontier, is a key to peace in the region. It is not a border, but a “line of withdrawal,” set by the United Nations in 2000 for the practical purpose of confirming the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the south of Lebanon.

As long as the Blue Line holds, Nerguizian indicated, a full-scale conflict seems unlikely. And right now, Hezbollah does not appear to have the juice to drive Lebanon willingly into a conflict.

“Frankly, Hezbollah’s actions seem to have at least as much to do with the timing of the August 4th [explosion] commemoration as any other exogenous factor,” Nerguizian said. “In that way, Hezbollah’s actions are largely self-serving and tone deaf relative to the optics of most of the Lebanese. It just does not have the kind of cross-sectoral support or appeal it had in 2006, and any future war would one it and its constituents would largely fight and die for alone.”

Every interaction between Israel and Lebanon is colored by the memory of the 2006 war. That 34-day military conflict raged along Lebanon, Northern Israel and the Golan Heights, with the principal parties being Hezbollah paramilitary forces and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). It is believed to have killed between 1,191 and 1,300 Lebanese people and 165 Israelis.

The concern now is that Lebanon, suffering through an internal meltdown, will end up being dragged into a conflict that has nothing to do with the country itself.

“What is happening is simply part of the US-Iranian conflict, and one of its signs is the clashes that occurred last week in Lebanon,” said retired Lebanese Brig. Gen. Maroun Hitti. “Obviously, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is implementing the Iranian agenda in Lebanon.”

Iran has taken several steps in the last two weeks to raise tensions in the region, including a July 29 unmanned vehicle strike on a commercial shipping vessel and, several days later, what appears to have been a hijacking attempt on another ship. Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy group, launching rockets from Lebanon is likely part of the same slow escalation.

“The wildcard, of course, is how Israel and Iran chose to escalate or deescalate in the maritime domain, be it in the Gulf, the Red Sea, or the Mediterranean,” Nerguizian said. “Every shadow encounter between Israel and Iran in this space comes with the inherent risk of over-reach, a dramatic over-response, or triggering other forms of escalations tied to Israel and Hezbollah.”

Ret. Brig. Gen. Mohammad A. Sabti, also a former Lebanese military official, believes Hezbollah and Israel do not want to risk igniting another major war.

“We cannot expect escalation, because what happened on July 29 shows that a sort of retaliation against Iran is now being prepared, who in turn started taking preventive steps,” he told Breaking Defense. “This has led Tehran to mobilize its proxies in the region, especially Lebanon, to send a clear message to Israel saying, look what you have to expect if things take a turn against us.”

Sabti pointed out that the artillery and missiles on Aug. 6 were launched in an uninhabited land, so the dynamics and mechanism of “their recent game shows no escalation.”

But that doesn’t mean things couldn’t possibly stumble into another unwanted clash, and both former Lebanese officers were open about their concerns.

“If we don’t reach a political outlet soon, Lebanon is heading towards a military conflict,” Hitti said, adding that he hopes against that happening as “its consequences will only make matters worse.”

Sabti believes all that could be done for now is monitor the US, UK, and Israel’s reaction to the ship’s incident. “Will it be rhetoric, or will an action be taken to save Israel’s face?” he asked. “In light of this, there will be a reaction to the action from Lebanon.”

He concluded that it’s time that the international community puts pressure on countries that pose threat to the international security. “They have to plan a collective agenda and forge a global strategy to fight the devils,” he said. “We need no more of these snakes around. It’s time to cut heads.”

Advertize With Us

See Also

Tributes galore as Abuja bids Joe Nwodo farewell

Global Upfront

Impunity: You’ve No Right To Respond If A Policeman In Uniform Slaps You, Force Spokesperson Tells Nigerians

Global Upfront

Terrorising bandits’ kingpins in Northwest, Northcentral regions opt for amnesty as military air, ground offensives hit forest camps, hideouts

Global Upfront

IPOB shuts door to any dialogue with INEC over Anambra Governorship election

Global Upfront

Anambra Governorship election must hold, boycott not an option, By Professor Uzodinma Nwala

Global Upfront

Train, equip soldiers for fight against terrorism, banditry, IBB asks FG

Global Upfront

8 Out Of 10 Nigerian Children Suffer Abuse Before Age 18 – Paediatrics

Global Upfront

India: Nigerian National, Victor Ogbonna, On Bail For Drug Peddling Case Arrested In Mumbai In Fresh Drug Bust

Global Upfront

Nigerian Navy launches new Landing Ship Tank (LST) in Damen Shipyards, UAE, on Monday

Global Upfront

Buhari Condemn “Revenge” Killing of 33 Persons in Own State of Katsina

Global Upfront

This website uses Cookies to improve User experience. We assume this is OK...If not, please opt-out! Accept Read More