Increased Tensions Between Israel and Lebanon Elicit Fear of Direct Conflict

  • Posted on: 5 September 2019
israel and lebanon tension

Hezbollah field commanders announced on August 31st that they were ready to take action in response to an attack by Israeli drones the previous week in Al Dahieh district of Beirut, Lebanon. According to Israeli reports, the attack drone allegedly hit a missile factory belonging to Hezbollah. Israeli sources also reported that the drones allegedly damaged a planetary mixer, “an industrial-sized mixer weighing about eight tons, used to create propellants that can improve the engine performance of missiles and increase their accuracy.'' A second drone exploded in an open area nearby, that same day, causing no damage. The two attacks on Lebanon resulted in the injury of 3 Lebanese on Aug. 25th.

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The last conflict between the two foes erupted in 2006, after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid, approximately 1,200 Lebanese (mainly civilians) and 158 Israelis (mainly soldiers) were reported dead as a result of the conflict. Although Nasrallah did not mention a time of retaliation but he did hint that [translated] “it is now in the hands of the field commanders who know what they must do…and what the limits are.”

Related: Israel Strikes Damascus Airport in first strike in 2019

Israel suspects that Iran is increasing its support for Hezbollah by assisting the party with building precision-missile production facilities. However, Hasan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah, denied any claims of Hezbollah having weapon-producing factories stating [translated] “we have as many precision-guided missiles in Lebanon as we need for any confrontation, small or big”. And stressed that that such "lies'' made by Netanyahu were an attempt to justify Israeli attacks against the country.

Related: Israel Signs Deal for Advanced Precision Missiles

Following the Israeli attacks, Iranian government spokesman, Ali Rabiei, warned that the attacks made by Israel in Lebanon would not go unanswered, stating “the patience of the countries in the region is wearing so thin that Iran would support Hezbollah under all circumstances”. And Hassan Nasrallah pledged to retaliate to what he called “Israel’s suicide mission”, when referring to Israel’s recent attacks on Lebanon. While also indicating that the timing and the scale of Hezbollah's response are in the hands of the group’s field commanders.

Nevertheless, as there were fears that the tensions unleashed by the recent Israeli strikes on Lebanon will escalate further, heightened Israeli military presence was reported along the Northern borders, in anticipation of a response from Hezbollah. According to Israeli media sources, the increase in security measures included: mobilising Naval and Aerial forces and snipers to the borders with Lebanon, increasing the number of troops and artilleries, and shutting down Kiryat Shmone Airport located near the Lebanese, Syrian borders.

Ultimately, on Sep. 1st, an armored vehicle belonging to Israeli forces in Avivim 14.80 KM. N Safad was struck by a Hezbollah anti-tank guided missile. And immediately after the attack, several Israeli sources reported that Israeli forces conducted an evacuation of 2 injured Israeli soldiers, who were inside the armored vehicle that was struck. Israeli forces dispatched a helicopter to the scene and the two injured soldiers were filmed being evacuated to Rambam hospital 4.74 KM. NW Haifa for treatment. Hezbollah quickly took responsibility for firing 3 missiles into Israeli locations near the border with Lebanon, including the missile attack on the Israeli armored vehicle.

Following the release of the video, of the evacuation of the two Israelis, several Israeli media sources such as, accused Israel of exercising psychological warfare against Hezbollah, and suggested that the evacuation of the injured was staged. This was later confirmed by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, when he announced that Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel caused no casualties. Netanyahu also confirmed that ISF fired 100 artillery shells into Southern Lebanon in retaliation to the missile attacks on Israeli military targets, causing no casualties.

Two hours after the escalations between Hezbollah and Israel ended on Sep. 1st, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), reported that a general calm was restored along the Israel-Lebanon border.  And Israel lifted all restrictions it previously imposed on Israeli citizens living in Northern Israeli towns. 

In a televised speech on September 2nd, Hassan Nasrallah announced that while the escalations with Israel at the Israel-Lebanon border were over, the escalations had launched a “new phase” in which Hezbollah no longer has red lines, indicating that Hezbollah’s missile attacks on Israel on September 1st sent Israel “a clear message that if you attack, then all your border, forces, and settlements at the border and deep inside the country will be at risk.” Nasrallah declared his group’s victory, for targeting Israel for the first time, rather than Israeli-occupied Shebaa farms, as the group did in previous years.

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