Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based militant group backed by Iran, unleashed a barrage of over 60 rockets on an Israeli military base on Saturday in retaliation for the killing of Hamas’ deputy political leader, Saleh Arouri, in Beirut. This marked Israel’s first strike in the Lebanese capital since 2006.
The incident unfolded after a presumed Israeli strike targeted a neighborhood in Beirut earlier in the week, claiming the life of Saleh Arouri and several others. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, asserted that his group had to respond to prevent Lebanon from becoming vulnerable to further Israeli attacks. Nasrallah emphasized the severity of the situation, stating, “We cannot keep silent about a violation of this seriousness,” highlighting the potential threat to Lebanon’s cities, villages, and public figures.
As tensions escalated, Nasrallah made a case for retaliation to the Lebanese public, acknowledging the risks but underscoring the greater repercussions of remaining silent. The situation has added complexity to the region, coinciding with the visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and escalating conflicts in Iraq and Yemen.
In Gaza, Israel adjusted its military strategy by intensifying its offensive in the south while reducing activity in the north. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsened as Israeli airstrikes pounded the densely populated areas, displacing thousands and prompting concerns about famine.
Hezbollah’s historical involvement in cross-border attacks saw a resurgence amid the ongoing Gaza war, with rockets launched into northern Israel, leading to reciprocal strikes. The recent events, including the Beirut strike and subsequent rocket attacks, suggest a critical juncture that could potentially escalate into a full-scale war between Israel and Lebanon.
Despite Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon following rocket attacks, Hezbollah exhibited restraint, perhaps wary of a repeat of the destructive 2006 war between the two sides. Nasrallah indicated that the details of Hezbollah’s response would be decided on the battlefield, leaving the situation uncertain.
Beyond the immediate conflict, Israeli officials have threatened increased military action against Hezbollah, demanding the withdrawal of its fighters from areas near the border—a move called for by a 2006 UN truce but never implemented.
Amid the chaos, Nasrallah pointed to the evacuation of Israelis from border areas as a form of political pressure, drawing attention to Hezbollah’s ability to force a similar displacement that Lebanese people experienced in past conflicts. The intricacies of the conflict highlight the complex web of regional dynamics and power struggles.
As the situation unfolds, the international community faces challenges in providing humanitarian aid to Gaza, where infrastructure is damaged, communication disrupted, and aid workers are at risk. The UN humanitarian chief expressed the difficulties in supporting over 2 million people in Gaza amid the ongoing hostilities, emphasizing the urgent need for a resolution to prevent further civilian casualties and alleviate the humanitarian crisis.
In this volatile environment, the Middle East remains a focal point of geopolitical tensions, with the risk of broader regional implications if the conflict continues to escalate.