As the latest war between Israel and Hamas enters its third day, Israeli artillery and helicopters are striking targets in Lebanon after an incursion into northern Israel by “a number of armed terrorists,” according to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Though it is unclear who was involved in the incursion, any combat along the Lebanese border raises great concerns about the potential involvement of Hezbollah.
Lebanon's Hezbollah has deep backing from Iran, a large ground force, and a massive arsenal of missiles, long-range rockets, and suicide drones that could strike across Israel and totally flood the country's already overwhelmed air defenses. Opening up a second front would also pull resources away from the Gaza operation and see Israel fighting in the north and the south. With Hezbollah operating in Syria, as well, and its deep ties to the Iranian regime, such circumstances drastically increase the chances of the conflict expanding well beyond Israel and southern Lebanon.
“IDF soldiers killed a number of armed suspects that infiltrated into Israeli territory from Lebanese territory,” the IDF said Monday on its Telegram channel. “The soldiers are continuing to search the area. Additionally, IDF helicopters are currently striking in the area. Details to follow.”
In addition to the incursion, the IDF said there were at least two mortar rounds launched toward northern Israel from Lebanon. One fell into Lebanese territory and no injuries were reported, according to the IDF.
There are also media reports of Israeli artillery fire into southern Lebanon and of Israel destroying a Hezbollah observation point at the border inside Lebanon.
“The IDF Homefront Command instructs Israeli civilians in towns near the Lebanese border to remain in their homes,” it warned on Twitter.
Today's incident on the Lebanese-Israeli border follows a puzzling incident yesterday when short-range artillery was fired from a school inside Lebanon at a mountaintop Israeli border installation radar and listening station. As with today's situation, it was unclear who was behind that, but that would be a prime target ahead of any Hezbollah missile, rocket, and drone barrage into Israel.
Just two days ago, Hezbollah said it would not go to war with Israel and effectively enter the conflict unless the IDF entered Gaza in force. Such an operation is absolutely being readied, one that will go much farther than those in the past. Now it appears the group's messaging on when and why it would attack is changing.
According to Israel’s I24 News, Hezbollah officials have told Lebanese officials that they are not going to get involved in the conflict “unless they are harassed or provoked by Israel,” according to I24. However, Hezbollah is also warning the U.S. that if it gets involved in the conflict, it will need to as well, according to I24 News.
That’s a response to a move yesterday by the U.S. to send the USS Gerald R. Ford and its strike group to the Eastern Mediterranean as well as to “augment U.S. Air Force F-35, F-15, F-16, and A-10 fighter aircraft squadrons in the region,” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Sunday. “The U.S. maintains ready forces globally to further reinforce this deterrence posture if required.”
Hezbollah, as we noted yesterday, has a tremendous array of long-range weapons at its disposal. From our report:
"The Iranian backed militant group is sitting on a absolutely massive arsenal made up of increasingly capable weaponry — suicide drones, long-range rockets, and cruise missiles — as well as tens of thousands of artillery rockets. Its capabilities have metastasized to the point that if they were to fully activate, the damage they could do to Israeli population centers is of grave concern. Israel has the most advanced and deeply-layered integrated air defense system (IADS) on the planet, but it would be deeply overwhelmed if Hezbollah were to unleash in full force."
Then there is the aforementioned concern of fighting on two fronts and the possibility that a war in southern Lebanon spills out into a larger conflict. This is primarily due to Iran, the direct benefactor of Hezbollah, which supplies it with increasingly advanced weaponry. Those weapons would rain down on Israeli cities, potentially causing great destruction in addition to casualties on the ground in Lebanon as Israel fights Hezbollah there. A major aerial interdiction campaign would be needed to try to destroy any of Hezbollah's arsenal so-called 'left of launch' — before they are sent on their one-way journeys. This is extremely hard to do and very resource-intensive, but will be necessary in order to thin the effects of those weapons and the potential of Hezbollah's arsenal to sustain bombardment over the long haul.
Hezbollah is highly active in Syria as well, which could see the conflict spill into that war-torn country, one that is already a maelstrom of foreign and domestic groups operating militarily to achieve their own goals. Beyond that, Iran would be seen as largely responsible for Hezbollah's activities, which points to a larger simmering showdown between Iran and Israel.
Hopefully none of this will come to pass, but it is widely understood that another fight with Hezbollah would look nothing like the ones before. At a time when Israel is preparing for an unprecedented ground operation in Gaza and struggling to defend against rocket barrages emanating from there, taking on Hezbollah throughout region would be a massive resource drain that is full of many variables that Israel cannot control.
This is why closely watching activities on Israel's northern border is critical at this time.
UPDATE: 2:37 PM EST—
New statement from IDF on situation in the north:
"Earlier today, following exchanges of fire near the Lebanese border, armed terrorists were identified infiltrating Israeli territory. IDF soldiers were immediately dispatched to the area following the identification, exchanges of fire ensued during which two of the armed terrorists were killed. During the exchanges of fire, one of the terrorists escaped back into Lebanese territory.
The incident has concluded and there is no fear of an additional security incident.
During the exchanges of fire, IDF aircraft struck three military posts belonging to the Hezbollah terrorist organization. Two of the military posts were observation posts, and third was a post used by Hezbollah forces during emergency.
Additionally, artillery fire was carried out by the IDF.
The IDF is prepared for all scenarios in all areas, and will continue to operate in order to protect the residents of the state of Israel."
Meanwhile, Hezbollah is announcing the deaths of its foot soldiers in today's exchange:
UPDATE: 2:50 PM EST—
Hezbollah says four of its fighters were killed in today's exchange and there are indication that a new round of reprisal attacks is underway. We are trying to confirm if this is indeed the case.
Editor's note: The video of Hezbollah threatening Israel was from May, so we removed it from the post.
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