Sleepwalking Into War

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The leader of Hezbollah, the Iran-backed political party and militant group based in Lebanon, recently dared Israeli politicians to start a war to their north as they fight Hamas in the Gaza Strip in the south.

“Everything you see we can see and everything we can strike we are not sparing in this battlefront,” said the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, according to National Public Radio, in a televised speech from an undisclosed location. “And it won’t be random bombardment. Every drone will have a target. Every missile will have a target.”

The speech came a day after Israeli forces killed a senior Hezbollah commander, Taleb Abdullah, and Israeli leaders warned Hezbollah about an “all-out war” after an uptick in cross-border skirmishes along Israel’s border with Lebanon, reported CNBC. Writing on social media, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz warned that “Hezbollah will be destroyed and Lebanon will be severely hit” in the conflict.

But Katz might have spoken too quickly.

Hezbollah is better equipped, better armed and better trained than in previous conflicts. The group can now strike at Israeli operations centers that it could not hit before. The American military, furthermore, is worried that Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system cannot protect the country from the deluge of missiles that Hezbollah might fire, CNN wrote.

Iran might also become more directly involved if Israel squares off against Hezbollah, added Politico. In the past, Iran has always used proxies to attack Israel. In April, however, Iran directly attacked Israel from its territory, a potential sign of trouble to come.

Signs that the conflict could spread throughout the region in these circumstances are already appearing. Hezbollah leaders recently threatened Cyprus with violence if they helped Israeli leaders attack Lebanon, including letting Israeli jets fly through their air space, reported Al Jazeera. The United Kingdom has two military bases in Cyprus, another potential complication in the mix.

Writing in the Conversation, Australian National University scholar Ian Parmeter, who specializes in Arab and Islamic Studies, lamented how Israel and its enemies appear to be sleepwalking into war. Israel’s military is formidable, but, Parmeter asked, can it wage a two-front war in the face of American and European pressure to deescalate the fighting in Gaza?

It might have to: On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the latest ceasefire proposal, saying he won’t agree to a deal that ends the war. Hamas has already said it won’t agree to a proposal that doesn’t.

An op-ed in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz argued that these developments are the very reason, however, for Netanyahu to find a path to peace in Gaza that in turn could lessen tensions in the north.

The newspaper added, for Israel now, “there’s no room for error.”

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