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March 12, 2018 | by  | in News |
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Eyes Turn to Lebanon

As the war in Syria continues, eyes are turning to Lebanon, a more traditional hot spot for violence in the region. In 2006 Israel launched a devastating war against Hizbollah, a Shi’a Islamist political party and militant group in Lebanon, in an effort to secure their northern border from further raids by the group. This was but the most recent invasion of Lebanon by Israel, and the raison d’être for the group who were founded during Israel’s occupation from 1982-2000 to expel the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

One of the primary potential flashpoints between the two sides is the escalating dispute over ownership of the Leviathan gas field, claimed by both Israel and Lebanon. An intensifying war of words has broken out over the matter between Israel and Hassan Nasrallah, the current leader of Hizbollah. Nasrallah has noted that if Hizbollah so wished they could shut down Israeli exploration in the gas field, presumably via a military strike on a gas platform.

In February, Israel announced plans to build a border fence along the United Nations demarcated “Blue Line”, which Israel withdrew to in 2000, where Nasrallah stated, “Lebanon will be united behind the state and the army to prevent the Israeli enemy [violating Lebanese territory]… Hizbollah will fully handle its responsibility in this regard”.

While trading threats between the two parties is common, this blase attitude ignores the fast-changing facts on the ground, with both Israeli and Hizbollah’s officials talking up a future war. Indeed, Hizbollah Media Officer Mr Ahmed in Beirut has noted that it is not a case of if but of when the next war will erupt.

In the time since the 2006 war, Hizbollah have increased not only the size but also the quality of their arsenal. Most analysts are in agreement that the group now possesses well over 100,000 advanced rockets and missiles, all pointed squarely at Israel.

One such analyst for the IDF, Yiftach Shapir, commented to the Jerusalem Post that the Israeli government is going to have some tough decisions on what it can realistically defend, as the system is susceptible to being overwhelmed, especially with targets like Dimona and Haifa – which respectively house chemical and nuclear plants – likely to come under sustained fire.

The threat of sustained missile strikes on greater Israel has been brought into stark relief over the course of the Syrian conflict, with the IDF launching numerous raids at Syrian/Iranian convoys carrying equipment to Lebanon. The raids came to a head when an Israeli jet was shot down in February by Syria after attacking the launch site for an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) drone, the IRGC being Hizbollahs chief ally and backer.

Brigadier General Manelis, a senior spokesman for the IDF, also alluded to the growing threat from Iran in Lebanon when he called the country “one giant Iranian missile factory”, in an op-ed posted to the Lebanese opposition.

With Iran and her proxy being Israel’s chief nemesis, it is highly unlikely Tel-Aviv will further tolerate the growing presence of Iran there, and if one thing is certain, the next war will be ruinous for both sides.

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