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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 29 August, 2020

  • 5 Min Read

Targeting Hezbollah: On Israeli attacks in Lebanon

Targeting Hezbollah: On Israeli attacks in Lebanon

Introduction

  • The Israeli attacks on Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon following what it called “cross border fires” mark a significant escalation in the crisis that has been building up along the border in recent years.

Historical background:

  • Hezbollah, a Shia militia-cum-political party in Lebanon, and Israel, which have fought two wars before, have been observing a tenuous ceasefire for 14 years.
  • It is considered an Iranian-funded terrorist group by both Israel and the United States.
  • Tensions began after Israel’s targeting of Iranian weapons and supplies within Syria.
  • Israel fears that Iranian supplies to Hezbollah via Syria would leave them stronger, enhancing Israel’s security challenges in the northern border.
  • In the recent attacks, Israel targeted an observation post, which the Israeli Defense Forces claimed was used by Hezbollah for intelligence collection.
  • The exchange was the latest of several recent spikes in tension along the heavily militarized border, which has been monitored by United Nations forces since the two countries fought a war in 2006.

News:

  • Israel, which has bombed Gaza several times since its 2005 withdrawal from the strip, had been careful when it came to Hezbollah.
  • Hezbollah has been a tough target for Israel.
  • In 2000, after 18 years of occupation of southern Lebanon, Israel was forced to withdraw mainly due to the fighting of Hezbollah.
  • In 2006, Israel invaded Lebanon, aimed at destroying Hezbollah’s military capabilities.
  • But after a month of Israeli aerial and land attacks, even on the day of the ceasefire, Hezbollah fired hundreds of short-range rockets into northern Israel. Ever since then, both sides have been wary of another open conflict.
  • The militants, on the other side, turned their focus to capacity building after the 2006 war, and, since 2011, to the civil war in Syria.

Issues:

  • The raid, at a time when Israel was carrying out an air campaign in Gaza, shows the growing appetite of the newly formed unity government of Netanyahu for war as a means to address the simmering border problems.
  • The Baathist Syria has been a vital link between Hezbollah and Iran ever since the group was founded in the early 1980s.
  • Assad (President of Syria) has survived the civil war, and Iran has substantially increased its footprint in Syria, bolstering the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis.
  • Israel sees this axis as a growing security challenge and hence, started the bombing operations in Syria, risking another conflict with Hezbollah.

Way forward:

  • The past two wars suggest that it would not be easy for Israel, despite its military might, to defeat the battle-hardened Hezbollah fighters at their base.
  • Hezbollah, on the other side, might resist an Israeli attack, but risks pulling Lebanon (already battling an economic crisis, political instability and the after-effects of the Beirut blast) into a wider war.
  • Both sides should avert such an outcome and stick to the ceasefire.

Source: TH


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