Hezbollah Responds To Israeli Airstrikes By Firing Rockets

There have been growing cross-border hostilities between Lebanon and Israel amid Iran tensions

The Iranian-backed Lebanese group, Hezbollah, has fired rockets at an open ground near Israeli positions in response to Israeli air raids on southern Lebanon. This retaliatory measure comes after Israeli fighters yesterday launched “rare air raids on neighboring Lebanon following the second day of rocket fire across the border”, reports Al Jazeera.

The latest Hezbollah attacks seem to be calibrated to avoid further escalation, as it targeted open ground near Israeli forces in retaliation for the previous Israeli airstrikes that also struck open areas, avoiding any casualties.

According to the air force, “more than 10 rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israeli territory. Most of the rockets were intercepted by the aerial defense system while the rest of them landed in open areas adjacent to Har Dov, the Shebaa Farms border district.” Air raid sirens were also heard in Upper Galilee in northern Israel, and in the Golan Heights, territory that Israel captured in 1967.

While Israel is saying that it has no intention to escalate into a full-blown war, it is ready for one. These cross-border hostilities are threatening the relative calm since 2006, when Israel and Hezbollah fought a one-month war, which “killed 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and around 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers”, recall AP journalists Laurie Kellman and Zeina Karam.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, a force patrolling the Lebanon-Israel border, has stated that it is “a very dangerous situation, with escalations seen on both sides over the past two days.” Although the situation is precarious, both sides are “very careful in avoiding casualties” that could lead to a war, reports from Lebanon, Zeina Khodr to Al Jazeera.

Two long-time enemies

Israel and Lebanon have been for a long time tangled up in a problematic situation with each other, but this sudden escalation of tensions is due to a tumultuous state of affairs in the region amid increasingly strained relations with Iran.

This conflict “has to be put in the larger context of confrontation with Iran, which is what’s happening in the Arab world, in terms of targeting boats and vessels. It has to be put in the context of what’s happening in Iraq, with the targeting American military bases in Iraq, and with what’s happening in Syria, in terms of Israel bombing Iranian positions inside Syria,” according to Sami Nader, researcher of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs.

Following a drone strike on an Israeli-managed tanker, the MV Mercer Street, off the coast of Oman, regional tensions have been rising. Iran has denied authority, but the US, Britain, and Israel are accusing Iran of carrying it out and killing British and Romanian security guards. Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, stated that “any foolish act against Iran will be met with a decisive response. Don’t test us.”

Israel is trying to rally global action against Iran for this incident and try to convince, especially the US and Europe, that it is nonsense to continue the nuclear negotiations with the Iranian government and recommit to the J.C.P.O.A 2015 agreement. However, for years, analysts have spoken about the risk of Israel getting into a multi-front war with Iran, that backs Hezbollah and some Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

The confrontation between Israel and Iran has involved regular tit-for-tat attacks, but this drone incident has attracted international attention. It is feared that “Israel will respond forcefully, either by targeting Iran itself or its proxies like Hezbollah”, explains New York Times analyst, Patrick Kingsley.

The clash dynamic that is taking place for three days in a row is delicate for Lebanon because of its deep economic crisis and political deadlock that has the country without a functioning government for a year. Lebanese citizens are profoundly discontent with the government after the explosion in the port of Beirut that could be prevented if the Lebanese government had been more competent.

On the other side, Israel is also at a politically sensitive time with the new eight-party governing coalition trying to keep peace and the cease-fire that ended an 11-day war with Gaza in May. In the near months, we could be seeing a bloodier competition for regional power unfold between Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. As of right now, Hezbollah is sending a clear message and leaving up to Israel the opportunity to scale up or calm down the situation.

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