February 25, 2024

Israel is getting fed up with Hezbollah as it continues to exchange cross-border fire with the powerful Iran-backed Lebanese militant group, which has close ties to Hamas. On Thursday, an Israeli government spokesperson urged the international community to speak out now against Hezbollah’s “brazen” actions “instead of later criticizing our decisive response.”

This echoed stark warnings from top Israeli officials about the escalating situation, who’ve signaled that an invasion of southern Lebanon is not off the table. The Israeli military and Hezbollah have regularly traded fire since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

“If the world and the Lebanese government don’t act in order to prevent the firing on Israel’s northern residents, and to distance Hezbollah from the border, the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] will do it,” Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet and a former defense minister, said Wednesday.

Gantz said time for a diplomatic solution is running out, warning that the next stage in fighting with Hezbollah “will be deep, forceful, and surprising.” His comments come amid growing concerns that the war in Gaza is raising the risks of a regional conflict.

The hostilities with Hezbollah have led to casualties on both sides of the border, and the IDF says 80,000 people have been evacuated from northern Israel while the UN says over 64,000 have been displaced in southern Lebanon. The fighting has killed more than 150 people in Lebanon, including over 20 civilians (three were journalists), per AFP. At least four civilians and nine soldiers have been killed on the Israeli side, its military says.

Though Israel is calling on the Lebanese government to do something about Hezbollah, it has little power to do so. Beirut currently has no president, no functioning government for over a year, and no money to speak of. Not to mention, Hezbollah has lawmakers in parliament, officials in the ministries, and its armed forces are more powerful than the official Lebanese army.

Prepared to strike: In reference to the border hostilities, Israeli military chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi on Wednesday said that the military needed to be “prepared to strike if required.”The Israeli military is currently at a state of heightened readiness along the northern border.

Israel has invaded Lebanon in the past, including in 2006 after Hezbollah launched a deadly cross-border raid and kidnapped two Israeli soldiers. Hezbollah was also founded after Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

We’ll be watching to see if Israel launches another incursion into Lebanon in the coming days.