As Israel Engages with Hamas, Focus Shifts to Hezbollah, the Unpredictable Element on Its Northern Frontier

by Sophia Chen
Hezbollah-Israel Conflict

The involvement of Lebanon’s heavily armed Hezbollah faction in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict is a critical factor that could determine the trajectory of a confrontation that threatens to redefine geopolitical boundaries in the Middle East.

Although both Hezbollah and Hamas receive support from Iran, Hezbollah has remained ambivalent about entering the fray between Israel and the Gaza Strip’s Islamist governing body. For nearly a week, Israel has imposed a siege on Gaza, conducting hundreds of airstrikes in retaliation for a lethal attack by Hamas on southern Israeli territory.

Israel, committed to neutralizing Hamas, is deliberating the initiation of a ground invasion. Amid these considerations, Israeli political and military leaders are closely monitoring activities along Israel’s northern boundary, where Hezbollah is located. With tens of thousands of rockets and missiles capable of reaching virtually any point within Israel, Hezbollah is considered a more formidable adversary than Hamas.

The potential opening of a new front in Lebanon evokes uncomfortable memories of the intense month-long conflict between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006, which concluded without a clear victor and established a tense status quo. Lebanon, already mired in a four-year economic crisis, is sharply polarized, with political paralysis exacerbated by divisions between Hezbollah’s supporters and detractors.

Israel harbors particular concerns about Hezbollah’s advanced guided missiles, which are suspected of targeting key infrastructure such as natural gas facilities and power plants. Hezbollah’s military capabilities have also been sharpened through years of combat experience in Syria alongside the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.

Concurrently, the ties between Hamas and Hezbollah have been strengthening, especially as Hamas leaders have relocated to Beirut in recent times. While Hezbollah has largely refrained from active involvement, sources close to the organization indicate that an Israeli ground incursion could compel them to engage, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

Qassim Qassir, a Lebanese analyst with close ties to Hezbollah, stated that the group “will not stand idly by if Hamas is threatened with obliteration and will not allow Gaza to confront a ground invasion alone.”

Further escalation will be initiated by Hezbollah “when circumstances dictate,” according to Qassir, who spoke to The Big Big News. An anonymous official familiar with the situation has revealed that Hezbollah forces are on high alert.

Minor military exchanges have already occurred between Hezbollah and Israel since the Gaza conflict erupted. Casualties include three Hezbollah fighters and an Israeli soldier who was killed in a separate anti-tank missile assault.

Experts like Anthony Elghossain of the Washington-based New Lines Institute caution that while neither Israel nor Hezbollah seems inclined to commit to prolonged armed engagement, the risk of escalation remains, should either party miscalculate or deviate from established rules of engagement.

U.S. President Joe Biden has urged other Middle Eastern entities not to intervene, reinforcing his warning with the deployment of significant naval assets, including the Gerald R. Ford carrier group, and reaffirming America’s commitment to Israel’s security.

Notably, Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has not issued any public statements since the unexpected attack by Hamas. The organization has merely declared its ongoing assessment of the situation.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesperson, stated that conditions on the northern front are “relatively stable,” adding that Israel has deployed significant forces in the region to prevent any escalations initiated by Hezbollah.

International governments have advised Lebanese authorities to maintain distance from the conflict. Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati urged national self-restraint and criticized Israel for its actions, which he described as “criminal.”

Should a new conflict erupt with Lebanon, Israeli leaders have cautioned that significant destruction would be wrought in southern Lebanon. Given Hezbollah’s increasing influence and Lebanon’s deteriorating relationship with international donors, the prospects for post-war reconstruction would be complex and protracted, warned Mona Fawaz, a professor at the American University of Beirut.

Contributors to this report include Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Josef Federman in Jerusalem for Big Big News.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Hezbollah-Israel Conflict

What is the main focus of the article?

The main focus of the article is the potential involvement of Hezbollah in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. It examines how Hezbollah’s actions could significantly alter the trajectory of the conflict and the broader geopolitical landscape in the Middle East.

Who are the major players involved in this situation?

The major players in this situation are Israel, Hamas, and Hezbollah. Other key actors include the United States and Lebanon’s political leadership.

What is the historical context behind Hezbollah’s potential involvement?

Hezbollah and Israel have a history of conflict, notably the month-long war in 2006 that ended in a stalemate. Hezbollah has also been involved in the Syrian conflict, gaining combat experience that makes it a formidable military entity. Its relationship with Hamas has been strengthening, especially as Hamas leaders have moved to Beirut.

Why is Israel particularly concerned about Hezbollah?

Israel is concerned about Hezbollah’s advanced military capabilities, including its arsenal of tens of thousands of rockets and guided missiles. These could target key Israeli infrastructure, such as natural gas facilities and power plants. Hezbollah’s military capabilities are also considered more advanced than those of Hamas, making them a more formidable adversary.

What has the U.S. stance been on the potential involvement of Hezbollah?

U.S. President Joe Biden has warned against any external intervention in the Israel-Hamas conflict. To underscore this warning, the U.S. has deployed significant naval assets to the region and reaffirmed its commitment to Israel’s security.

What are the potential consequences for Lebanon if Hezbollah gets involved?

Lebanon is already grappling with a crippling economic crisis and is politically polarized. Hezbollah’s involvement in a new conflict could further destabilize the country, worsen its international relations, and complicate post-war reconstruction efforts.

What steps have been taken to prevent escalation?

Both Israel and international governments have advised Lebanese authorities to keep a distance from the conflict. Israel has also deployed significant military forces on its northern border to monitor Hezbollah’s activities and prevent possible escalations.

How has Hezbollah reacted so far to the Israel-Hamas conflict?

As of the article’s writing, Hezbollah has remained largely non-committal about directly engaging in the conflict. However, it has placed its fighters on full alert, and minor military exchanges with Israel have occurred. Sources close to the group indicate that an Israeli ground invasion could compel Hezbollah to engage actively in the conflict.

What are the risks of miscalculation in this complex scenario?

Experts warn that although neither Israel nor Hezbollah appears keen on a prolonged armed engagement, the risk of escalation remains high. A miscalculation by either party could lead to a broader conflict, potentially pulling in other regional actors and affecting the geopolitical balance in the Middle East.

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RobertZ October 13, 2023 - 8:45 am

Article’s good but what’s with Hezbollah’s leader being so quiet? If Hamas and Hezbollah are close, shouldn’t he be more vocal? just a thought.

LindaW October 13, 2023 - 9:30 am

The fact that Biden is sending warships is both reassuring and terrifying. Reassuring coz it shows that he’s taking it seriously but terrifying because, well, warships.

AlexQ October 13, 2023 - 10:33 am

Honestly, who knows what’s gonna happen. Hezbollah is being watched so closely, even the smallest action could be a trigger. feels like everyone is walking on eggshells.

SamanthaP October 13, 2023 - 12:36 pm

it’s just sad, u know? Lebanon is already suffering and now they might be dragged into another war. like, when will it end for them?

Michael_O October 13, 2023 - 4:28 pm

So Hezbollah’s got the power to turn the tables, huh? makes you wonder why they haven’t made their move yet. Are they waiting for something? or maybe biding their time.

David_T October 13, 2023 - 5:58 pm

U.S is sending warships now? This is escalating so fast. Can’t help but feel this is a ticking time bomb and it’s a matter of when, not if.

SarahM October 13, 2023 - 9:22 pm

Wow, just wow. Reading this article made me realize how complicated the Middle East is, with so many players and interests involved. It’s like a real-life game of chess and no one wants to make the wrong move.

EmilyR October 13, 2023 - 10:43 pm

Lebanon is already in a bad place economically and politically. Can’t even imagine how much worse it’ll get if Hezbollah jumps in. It’s like adding fuel to fire, literally.

JohnSmith October 14, 2023 - 2:19 am

This article is on point. Hezbollah is def the wildcard here. They get involved and it’s a whole new ballgame. We’re talking bout a bigger war, more players, and the stakes go thru the roof. what do u guys think?


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