Is a war with Hezbollah next? Growing fears over Israel-Hamas war

Pro-Iranian Hezbollah militants chant slogans as they walk in the beginning of the funeral procession of the party top commander Wissam tawil in the southern Lebanese village of Khirbit Selem.

Picture Alliance | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Is a wider Middle East war — expanding beyond the borders of Gaza and Israel — inevitable?

The question is in sharp focus following a series of dramatic escalations around the region in the last few days: targeted killings of Hamas and Hezbollah commanders in Lebanon, a powerful Hezbollah attack on an Israeli Air Force command post, and U.S. and U.K. airstrikes on Houthi targets in Yemen after the Iran-backed rebels attacked dozens of ships in the Red Sea.

Washington has dispatched Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other key diplomats to the region for several high-stakes meetings with Arab and Israeli leaders.

“This is a moment of profound tension for the region,” the State Department chief told reporters in Doha on Jan. 7. “This is a conflict that could easily metastasize, causing even more insecurity and suffering.”

An all-out war between Israel and Hezbollah — the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shia militant organization designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. and UK — would be devastating for both sides.

Hezbollah, considered to be among the most heavily armed non-state groups in the world, is estimated to have ten times the military capability of Hamas, and previous wars between the two have ended without clear victory on either side.

Lebanon, meanwhile, is in the midst of economic and political crisis, its infrastructure wholly unprepared for a new war.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken gestures as he arrives in Tel Aviv on January 8, 2024, during his week-long trip aimed at calming tensions across the Middle East.

Evelyn Hockstein | Afp | Getty Images

For Charles Freilich, a former Israeli deputy national security adviser, war between Israel and Hezbollah is practically a foregone conclusion.

“A major escalation is possible at any time, whether by design or miscalculation,” Freilich wrote in an opinion piece in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

But, he warned, “The war in Gaza pales in comparison to what a war with Hezbollah would look like. Hezbollah’s military capabilities vastly exceed Hamas’s and Israel has yet to achieve its military objectives even against this lesser actor, despite three months of intensive warfare … It will be a war such as Israel has never experienced.”

Risk grows ‘with every passing hour’

A war between Israel and the Lebanese militant group would likely cause significant damage to national infrastructure like water, electricity and communications, as well as homes and military targets for both sides.

“Thus far the two sides have been careful to avoid the exchange of fire from getting out of control and escalating into a full scale war,” said Nimrod Novik, a fellow at the Israel Policy Forum, which is dedicated to advancing a two-state outcome to the conflict.

“However,” he…

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Is a war with Hezbollah next? Growing fears over Israel-Hamas war

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