Is Hezbollah’s Barrage On Israel Prelude To Much Larger Iranian Attack? (Updated)

Iran has launched vengeance strikes against Israel, thrusting the region into an scenario that could easily spill out into a wider conflict.

byJoseph Trevithick|
Hezbollah has launched a new barrage of rockets and drones against targets in Israel as fears grow that a larger coordinated strike by Iran and/or proxies may be imminent.
capture via X


Hezbollah has launched dozens of rockets, as well as kamikaze drones, at targets in northern Israel, at least some of which Israeli forces have been able to intercept. Though the barrage currently appears to be an isolated incident, it is fueling fears that it could be a prelude to much larger unprecedented Iranian and/or Iranian-backed strikes on Israel, which U.S. authorities have been warning could be imminent. There is a very high potential that such a scenario, in turn, could touch off a full-scale war between Israel and Iran that could quickly drag in other major regional and international players, chiefly the United States.

"Approx. 40 launches were identified crossing from Lebanese territory, some of which were intercepted," according to a social post from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on X. "The IDF Aerial Defense Array successfully intercepted 2 Hezbollah explosive UAVs that crossed from Lebanon into Israeli territory earlier this evening."

The IDF also said that the launches caused no casualties.

This comes amid growing concerns about the aforementioned potential for a larger, coordinated set of strikes on Israel from Iran and/or its proxy forces across the Middle East. Some kind of major retaliation against Israel has been expected ever since Israeli forces struck a consular building right next to the Iranian Embassy in Syria's capital Damascus on April 1. That strike killed three of Iran's top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commanders, including Mohammad Zahedi, the top Quds Force commander in the region. The Quds Force is the IRGC's external operations arm.

Earlier today, The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous U.S. officials, reported that American intelligence indicated strikes on unspecified targets in northern and/or southern Israel could come within 24 to 48 hours. However, that same intelligence suggested that the regime in Tehran had not yet made a final decision to act.

There have been fears of a larger confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah since last October. This followed the eruption of a major conflict in the Gaza Strip after Hamas and other Palestinian groups launched unprecedented terrorist attacks on southern Israel on October 7. Hezbollah, which also has a huge stockpile of different kinds of unguided rockets and other munitions, has also been engaged in a lower-level conflict with Israeli forces along the Lebanese border for months.

Israel has also already faced threats from other Iranian-backed proxies, including the Houthis in Yemen and various militias in Iraq. These groups, along with Hezbollah, have dramatically expanded the size and scope of their missile and drone arsenals in recent years. Israel's extensive air and missile defense networks have been very actively engaged in recent months in defending against these threats.

Iran certainly has the capacity to launch major missile and drone strikes on targets inside Israel. In January, Iranian forces very visibly demonstrated their ability to hit Israel with their longest-ever strikes on targets in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, which also involved the use of a new medium-range ballistic missile called the Kheiber Shekan. Iran had also struck sites in Iraq and Pakistan with shorter-range ballistic missiles just days before.

Details about how the United States is aiding Israel in its immediate response to Hezbollah's barrage, and any other imminent threats the two countries are aware of, are currently limited. U.S. officials had previously said they were prepared to actively assist in defending Israel.

Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told his Israeli counterpart Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant that "Israel could count on full U.S. support to defend Israel against Iranian attacks, which Tehran has publicly threatened," according to an official Pentagon readout of a call between them. That readout also said that Austin's comments were "echoing President [Joe] Biden's unequivocal message to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu."

Today, Gallant posted on X about concluding a face-to-face with U.S. Army General Michael "Erik" Kurilla, the current head of U.S. Central Command, where the two "discussed the close cooperation between the United States and Israel, between our defense establishments and militaries."

"We also want to address the Iranian threat to launch a significant – they're threatening to launch a significant attack in Israel," President Joe Biden said during a press conference on Wednesday. "As I told Prime Minister Netanyahu, our commitment to Israel's security against these threats from Iran and its proxies is iron-clad – let me say it again, iron-clad – all we can to protect Israel's security."

Fox News has also reported that the U.S. military is now moving additional unspecified assets into the region to bolster its own capacity to defend itself against any potential threats from Iran or its proxies. Online flight tracking data suggests this could include the forward-deployment of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles and other aircraft to bases in the Middle East.

There had been unconfirmed reports earlier in the day that Qatari and Kuwaiti authorities had said they would not allow the U.S. military to use bases in their countries as staging points for any response to strikes on Israel. U.S. partners in the region have reportedly imposed similar restrictions in the past.

The U.S. military has a presence in Israel proper, which is heavily focused on supporting air and missile defense missions. There are also a large number of American naval assets at sea in the region, including a full aircraft carrier strike group with its embarked carrier air wing and a highly capable Ohio class guided missile submarine. There are also aircraft based in Europe and elsewhere around the world, all of which could be called upon to respond.

Signs that strikes on major Iranian or Iranian-backed strikes on Israel might be increasingly imminent have been growing all week. The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem issued a security alert yesterday announcing it was restricting the movements of U.S. government personnel in the country "out of an abundance of caution." It also issued new warnings to U.S. nationals about the potential for "security incidents" to "take place without warning." The notice included generic instructions about what to do in the event of a mortar or rocket attack.

French, Canadian, and Australian authorities have also put out new travel alerts for Israel and other countries in the region.

Authorities in Israel are reportedly taking additional steps within the country to prepare for major potential strikes in the next day or so.

In another indication of heightened concerns about the prospects of conflict in the region, German airline Lufthansa suspended flights to and from Tehran earlier this week and is now reportedly avoiding using the country's airspace entirely.

"Barring some last minute development Iran is going to attack Israel," Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, had also posted on X earlier today. "The response and risk of escalation will depend on what and how they attack."

Senator Rubio, who in his position has access to very-high-level U.S. intelligence, had separately posted that "Israel is facing the threat of imminent attack, directly from Iran and in combination with coordinated attacks by Hezbollah, Houthis & Iranian proxies in Syria & Iraq" earlier in the week.

Iranian officials have been openly threatening such retaliation on multiple occasions since April 1. Israel "committed another mistake … and that was the attack on the Iranian consulate in Syria," Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on April 10.

"The consulate and diplomatic missions in any country are considered to be the territory of that country," Khamenei continued in a speech in Tehran after leading prayers marking Eid al-Fitr, the Islamic high holy day that marks the end of Ramadan. "When they attack our consulate, it means they have attacked our soil. … [Israel] made a mistake and must be punished and will be punished."

Social media accounts tied to the IRGC have recently shown videos depicting strikes on Israel's nuclear facility at Dimona and the airport in Haifa on the country's northern Mediterranean coast. Israeli authorities have explicitly pledged to retaliate directly against Iran in the event that Dimona is targeted.

If a larger scale set of coordinated strikes against Israel do come from Iran and/or its regional proxies, what might follow is unclear. However, all signs point to the very real potential of a serious regional conflict. Beyond the specific discussion about Dimona, Israeli authorities have threatened retaliation against Iran in response to strikes on its territory, regardless of where they might have originated from. Al Jazeera had reported earlier this week that the U.S. government would not rule out joining Israel in retaliatory operations against Iran, citing an anonymous American official.

At the same time, officials from the United States, through regional partners like Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, have reportedly been actively engaged in a major diplomatic push over the past few weeks to try to convince Iran to back down. Other Western countries are engaged in those efforts, as well. Iranian authorities had publicly rebuffed those efforts and had criticized the international community for not swiftly condemning the strike on its consular building in Syria. Iran has also reportedly threatened to attack U.S. forces in the region if the United States gets involved in an ensuing conflict with Israel.

There is still the potential that Hezbollah's latest barrage of rockets and drones is unrelated to any larger plans on the part of the regime in Tehran. At the same time, the group's strikes could offer a way to gauge the current state of readiness of Israeli defenses, as well as deplete stocks of air defense interceptors. The War Zone has specifically explored in detail in the past the dangers of Israel's Iron Dome counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar systems, which can also be used against drones and certain tiers of cruise missiles, being overwhelmed by large-volume attacks.

Whatever happens, there remains a clear risk of larger coordinated strikes on Israel now sparking a larger regional conflagration that could be very hard to de-escalate.

The War Zone is continuing to monitor the regional situation and will make updates as new information emerges.

Update 5:05 PM EST:

At another press conference today President Biden reiterated that the United States is "devoted to the defense of Israel" and that "we will help defend Israel and Iran will not succeed." Asked about what message he had for Iranian authorities as they threaten to strike Israel, Biden said simply: "Don't."

U.S. officials say that the repositioning of naval assets in the region is part of new efforts to bolster defenses ahead of any potential strikes on Israel, according to Reuters' Idress Ali. This reportedly includes sending the Nimitz class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and some of its escorts toward the northern end of the Red Sea.

Authorities in Germany have now advised nationals from that country to leave Iran as soon as possible. A growing number of other nations have issued new alerts for their citizens regarding travel to Israel and Iran, as well as other countries in the region.

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