Tit For Tat Escalation On The Israeli-Lebanese Border (Updated)

While the ground invasion of Gaza is, however briefly, on hold, skirmishes between Israeli forces and Hezbollah are increasing in the north.

byTyler Rogoway|
Lebanon Israel Hezbollah
Photo by JALAA MAREY/AFP via Getty Images
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The delay, even if brief, of Israel's wide-scale ground assault into Gaza came as a surprise last night, but also it was clearly a logical decision based on a number of potential factors, which we covered in our last update. But the reprieve has not stopped major hostilities beyond Gaza, with the situation along Israel's northern border with Lebanon continuing to deteriorate. There is great concern that Iranian-backed Hezbollah will kick off a second front there when Israel pushes into Gaza en masse.

Editor's note: the latest updates are posted at the bottom of this story.

Clashes and strikes continue to accelerate between Hezbollah and Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Anti-tank missile attacks on IDF vehicles, as well as rocket barrages, continue to come from inside Lebanon, as have Israeli air strikes in response to them. There have been various gunfights between small groups of Hezbollah foot soldiers and IDF personnel, as well. These operations appear to be smaller pestering operations or scouting and shaping ones prior to a larger conflict. Hezbollah has a massive arsenal it could unleash, so this is clearly designed to be below the threshold of an all-out Israeli response.

https://x.com/MarioNawfal/status/1713563604862034393?s=

The situation has devolved to a point that Israel warned all civilians in Southern Lebanon on Sunday that if they come within four kilometers of the border they could be met with deadly force. Meanwhile, the IDF is telling Israelis along the border to stay very close to bomb shelters. The Times of Israel is also reporting that the IDF is jamming GPS along the border to negate that capability for Hezbollah operatives and their more advanced weapons. A number of suspicious targets and drones have also been detected and fired on by Israel, and one Israeli drone was fired on by Hezbollah forces. That attempted downing was followed by a strike on the site that launched it.

This all follows the death of a Reuters cameraman and injury to six other journalists from various outlets in an apparent Israeli strike in Southern Lebanon yesterday. Both sides are supposedly investigating the incident.

Meanwhile, Iran continues to rattle its saber, making threats of a much wider conflict should Israel carry out its large-scale operation in Gaza. Iran's Foreign Affairs Minister stated today that "There is an opportunity for Israel to make amends in the coming hours. If not, the resistance will enhance its strategies and change the map of the region."

Israel meanwhile has been striking the runway in Aleppo, Syria once again in a move to keep Iran from flying in additional materiel — potentially very potent long-range weaponry — and personnel.

The United States is meeting directly with the top leadership of the Arab world this week with Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveling the region. One of his key points is putting pressure on Hamas via Arab power players like Qatar and Saudi Arabia to release the hostages they abducted during their raids on Israeli territory over a week ago.

There appears to be some progress in averting a massive humanitarian crisis — beyond what is already being experienced — in Gaza. Egypt is the only potential relief valve for the 2.2 million people encircled there, most of whom are now packed into the southern end of the strip with dwindling electricity and scarce water.

NBC News is reporting that the Rafah border crossing will reopen tomorrow and that aid will be able to enter Gaza and Palestinians can enter Egypt. This is coming from the Embassy of Palestine, but clearly there is a major push to get the border opened up. It is not clear if Israel has formally agreed to this.

NBC News reports: "Foreign national Palestinians will be able to cross the border into Egypt starting at 9 a.m. local time, at which time humanitarian aid will also begin crossing into Gaza, according to Kamel Khatib, a representative for the Embassy of Palestine."

There are also reports that Israel has turned back on the portion of the water supply to Southern Gaza that it has control of, while others say this has not occurred.

According to The New York Times, the Biden Administration pressured Israel to delay its advance into Gaza so that more people could leave Gaza City and its surroundings and head south through defined corridors. There were also likely other humanitarian and operational concerns, as we noted at the time. We may be seeing some of these concerns being met now with these recent developments.

There have been many claims that Hamas is trying to do whatever it can to keep civilians in Northern Gaza. Israel has posted a video that it claims shows Hamas setting up roadblocks along the exit routes out of the northern end of the Gaza Strip.

As the ground offensive is on hold, and after a brief stretch of calm, Israel continued to pound Gaza from the air, with over 100 targets being struck overnight. One target was supposedly the mastermind behind the Kibbutz Nirim and Nir Oz attacks last week.

"The IDF and the Shin Bet eliminated the commander of the Nakhaba force in the South Khan Yunis battalion of Hamas, who was responsible for the murderous raid in Kibbutz Nirim and Nir Oz; As part of the extensive attacks in the Gaza Strip on senior officials and military infrastructure"

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has condemned Hamas's actions saying they do not "represent Palestinians." He has also demanded the release of hostages.

A large pile of weapons that were taken off of Hamas operatives in Israel were displayed today. Beyond many small arms, it included many mines and other explosives, which may point to aspirations for even more destruction than they ended up achieving.

The U.S. is ramping-up plans to evacuate American citizens in Israel by sea. While this can occur in an uncontested manner at this time, in the future, that may not be the case. This could be one of the reasons behind the movement of the Expeditionary Sea Base USS Herschel "Woody" Williams from off the coast of Western Africa, north, towards the Mediterranean. It is an ideal platform for such a mission and can help in many roles should the conflict expand. We will have to see where it ends up, but it would join the Ford carrier strike group in the Eastern Mediterranean and eventually the Eisenhower carrier strike group that is heading there, as well.

Considering how quickly the scope of potential contingencies is expanding, expect more movements of American military assets into the region in the coming days.

China's Foreign Minister said Israel has gone "beyond the scope of self-defense" in its response to the attacks by Hamas. "We oppose acts that harm civilians and violate international law... We are committed to promoting peace talks and achieving a ceasefire and will continue to work for de-escalation and resumption of peace talks," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin, also said on Friday.

China's position on all this remains of great interest, especially considering much of the energy it badly needs comes from Arab countries and through the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea.

That's all for now. We will update this piece with additional news over the rest of the day as needed.

UPDATE: 7 PM PST—

In his 60 Minutes interview tonight, Biden used the same phrasing as Israeli officials, saying Hamas needs to be eliminated. He also stated he still supports Palestinian statehood:

There is more coming out on the humanitarian front for Gaza:

The number of U.S. deaths at the hands of Hamas has risen to 30, with 13 missing.

A near-term trip to Israel for Biden is also potentially in the works:

UPDATE: 2:25 AM PST—

There appeared to have been a breakthrough on the opening of Egypt's Rafah border crossing and the delivery of aid to Gaza, but now there are some conflicting statements. Video of trucks sporting the UN flag and makings showed up on social media that supposedly were moving across from Egypt into Gaza, but now Israeli officials are acting like it was not approved. This came after there were reports of a temporary halt to bombing so that aid could move into Gaza and some people could move out of the war torn area and into Egypt.

"Israel denies reports that it has agreed to halt fire in southern Gaza to allow the Rafah border crossing to open to let aid into the Strip.

“At the moment there is no ceasefire for humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip and the exit of foreigners,” says a terse statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyau’s office.

Earlier, the Reuters news agency, citing two Egyptian security officials, said Israel agreed to halt fire from 9 a.m. in a deal agreed on with Egypt and the US."

Now Egypt's foreign minister also says nothing has been approved yet:

So what exactly happened with those trucks remains unclear at this time.

Israel claims that Iran had ordered Hezbollah to escalate its attacks against Israel.

On that note, it's not a good sign that the IDF is evacuating 28 communitees along the Lebanon-Israel border.

Hezbollah has posted video of one of the anti-tank missile attacks on Israeli troops across the border:

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com

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