'Will They, Won't They': Hezbollah, Israeli Occupation on brink of full-scale war


Published: 2024-06-07 15:41

Last Updated: 2024-07-14 11:34

Editor: Hana Afram

'Israeli' firefighter putting out a fire in Kiryat Shmona (Photo: AFP)
'Israeli' firefighter putting out a fire in Kiryat Shmona (Photo: AFP)

Tensions between Hezbollah and Israeli Occupation have escalated dramatically in the past few days, with both sides hinting at the possibility of a full-scale war.

The frequent exchanges of threats and military posturing have left the international community on edge, wondering if the region is on the verge of an escalated war.

Also Read: Netanyahu warns Hezbollah: We are ready for action in the north

 - Signals from Hezbollah -

In recent speeches, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned that any Israeli Occupation aggression would be met with a fierce response. The group has reportedly been bolstering its arsenal with advanced weaponry, including precision-guided missiles, in preparation for a potential large-scale war.

Actions on the ground have matched Nasrallah's rhetoric as significant escalations on Sunday saw cross-border attacks from Lebanon.

As a result, massive fires raged through northern “Israel”, consuming vast areas of land and prompting the evacuation of numerous residents. The fires, which covered more than 2,400 acres, took two days to extinguish.

Hezbollah claimed responsibility, stating it had launched a “swarm of drones” targeting Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) military sites.

Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s second-in-command, reaffirmed the group's firm stance in a recent interview with Al Jazeera.

"Hezbollah is a front to support Gaza," Qassem declared, "and that front doesn’t stop until the war [in Gaza] stops."

Hezbollah also confirmed on Thursday that it had successfully damaged the “Israeli” Iron Dome air defense missile launcher in Ramot Naftali in northern “Israel.”

The group released a video showing a projectile's camera view as it flew into an Israeli Occupation outpost, striking the Iron Dome launcher just before the footage cuts out. This site matches the location of another Iron Dome battery featured in a video released a day earlier, which depicted the area under drone surveillance and artillery attack.

This serves as an unprecedented blow to “Israel’s” first line of defense as the occupation has been extremely reliant on the dome for protection. Additionally, repairing the dome might prove costly to “Israel” as each Iron Dome battery costs about USD 100 million, with each one consisting of three or four launchers.

Furthermore, Hezbollah's capabilities have significantly improved, largely due to advanced guided weapons supplied by Iran and allegedly smuggled through Syria.

In recent months, Hezbollah has introduced the Almas anti-tank missile into its arsenal. This missile features a TV-guidance system and, according to the “Israeli” research center, Alma, is a reverse-engineered variant of the “Israeli” Spike missile.

The Almas and Spike missiles stand out due to their "beyond line of sight" capability. Traditional anti-tank missiles require the operator to maintain a direct line of sight to the target, often putting them in dangerous positions until the missile impacts. This can leave operators vulnerable to counterstrikes or evasive actions by the target, especially if the target is more than a kilometer away.

To address this vulnerability, some anti-tank missiles incorporate a "fire and forget" system, allowing the operator to move to safety immediately after firing. However, the Almas and Spike missiles represent a further evolution in missile technology. Using camera-based guidance systems, they can adopt a "lofted" trajectory, flying over obstacles and hills while keeping the operator safely out of direct line of sight.

Another significant advantage of the Almas and Spike missiles is their extended range. Typical anti-tank guided missiles have ranges between 800m and 4km. In contrast, the Almas can reportedly reach up to 16km, while the Spike can extend up to 25km. This extended range allows operators to engage targets from much greater distances, increasing their safety and strategic flexibility on the battlefield.

 - “Israel's” stance -

On the other side, the Israeli Occupation has made it clear that it will not tolerate any threats to its security. “Israeli” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant have both issued stern warnings to Hezbollah and its allies. The IOF has also been conducting its own military drills, including large-scale exercises simulating an invasion of southern Lebanon.

Netanyahu visited Kiryat Shmona on Wednesday, the city near the Lebanese border where the 2,400-acre fire broke out, emphasizing that “Israel” is ready to take "very intense action" in the northern region.

"Whoever thinks that they can hurt us and that we will sit idly by is making a big mistake," Netanyahu declared. "One way or another, we will restore security to the north."

Additionally, Netanyahu is facing increasing pressure from his far-right coalition partners and senior government officials to escalate the war with Hezbollah. On multiple occasions, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich have urged Netanyahu to take decisive action.

On Wednesday, Ben Gvir declared on Telegram that it is the IOF’s duty to "simply destroy Hezbollah."

"It cannot be that our land is being targeted and harmed, and people here have evacuated," he stated. "All Hezbollah strongholds must be burned and destroyed. War!"

During Jerusalem Day speeches at the Western Wall, both ministers called for an expanded war effort, not only in Gaza but also in southern Lebanon.

Ben Gvir asserted that "for victory, we need to go into the north and fight Hezbollah and destroy them.”

Smotrich, directly addressing Netanyahu, called on him to "give the order" and "go to war with Hezbollah." He emphasized the need to restore national honor and security, urging the Prime Minister to act decisively. "The people of Israel are behind you!" he declared.

Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar added to the chorus of calls for immediate action, warning that delaying a confrontation with Hezbollah could result in a greater disaster.

"The time has come to end the foot-dragging," Zohar said while touring the north. "Delaying a war against Hezbollah could bring about a greater disaster than that of October 7."

Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi of the IOF indicated that “Israel” is nearing a critical decision point. "We are approaching the point where a decision will have to be made, and the [IOF] is prepared and very ready for this decision," Halevi said on Tuesday.

Maj. Gen. Ori Gordin, head of the IOF’s Northern Command, confirmed that preparations for a potential campaign against Hezbollah have been completed, and troops are ready for action. "We are prepared and ready, and when we will be ordered, the enemy will meet a strong and ready army," he assured.

 - Expert intervention -

Political experts and war analysts have also anticipated an escalation between the two parties for a while.

Military sources told Roya that "the intensified firing by Hezbollah, as part of its escalating approach, has one single goal: to push Israelis to accept the proposed American deal to stop the war on Gaza."

One source sees another goal for the party, which is "to convey the military message to Israelis about its ability to expand the strikes and inflict heavy losses on them if they decide to engage in a war against it."

In this context, a political source told Roya, "This comes after coordination between the axis of resistance forces, emphasizing the need to escalate from various fronts to push Israelis to accept a ceasefire, and the threat that if the war continues, the strikes will intensify."

Another diplomatic source stated, "In light of all these developments, Lebanon continues to receive more messages carrying Israeli threats. There is a warning from Britain about the possibilities of escalation and the necessity of taking measures to secure basic supplies."

 - International concerns -

A wider war could also draw Iran and the US into the war.

The US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Tuesday that Washington does “not support a full war with Hezbollah,” but “Israel” had the right to defend itself.

He continued to say that any escalation of the war "would lead to further loss of life from both Israelis and the Lebanese people and would greatly harm Israel's overall security and stability in the region."

The Biden administration also issued warnings to “Israel” against the prospect of a "limited war" in Lebanon, fearing it could draw Iran into the war.

As for Iran’s response, the country has continuously warned “Israel” against a major offensive on Hezbollah, stating it would lead to a significant setback for Netanyahu.

An Iranian spokesperson cautioned against underestimating Hezbollah's military strength compared to Hamas. "Hezbollah possesses sufficient capabilities to defend itself and Lebanon independently, without requiring assistance from Iran."

In an effort to de-escalate tensions, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to visit the region next week to mediate the ceasefire agreement

Also Read: Blinken to visit Tel Aviv next week

 - Uncertain future -

The coming weeks will be crucial in determining whether the current tensions will escalate into a war. But for now, the question remains: will they or won't they?