Israel and Hezbollah emphasize willingness to fight


Lerato Khumalo

Hezbollah is considered to be more powerful than Hamas in Gaza. Warning statements from an army spokesman show how difficult it is for Israel’s military to deal with the latter. The news at a glance.

In the conflict between Israel and the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, both sides are increasing their threatening behavior. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah emphasized the fighting spirit of his Shiite militia.

“If they impose a war on Lebanon, the resistance will strike back without limits,” he said in a public speech. After the publication of alleged aerial photographs of northern Israel by Hezbollah, Israel’s Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi played down concerns about the capabilities of its own military.

“We have, of course, infinitely greater capabilities, of which I believe the enemy knows only a few,” he said, according to the statement. The army is preparing for Hezbollah’s capabilities.

Israel’s military had previously said it had approved “operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon,” thereby fueling fears of an escalation. Since the start of the war between Israel and the Islamist organization Hamas, which is allied with the pro-Iranian Hezbollah, in the Gaza Strip, there have been daily military confrontations between the Israeli army and Hezbollah in the border region between Israel and Lebanon.

The situation has recently escalated significantly. According to Lebanese sources, at least three Hezbollah members were killed in an Israeli attack in southern Lebanon yesterday. Israel’s military confirmed the attack.

Hezbollah, in turn, claimed responsibility for an attack on Israeli soldiers in Metulla in northern Israel. The Israeli military confirmed that a drone from Lebanon had crashed in the area around Metulla. There were no injuries. Although Israel and the pro-Iranian Shiite militia have so far been hesitant to escalate their hostilities into a larger conflict, both sides have increasingly signaled their intention to expand their fight, wrote the Wall Street Journal.

The approval of plans for an offensive by the Israeli army is “part of the effort to send a message to Hezbollah to limit its activities and show its willingness to move towards some kind of solution,” the newspaper quoted Jossi Kuperwasser, former head of the research department of the Israeli military intelligence service, as saying. Israel wants to use military and diplomatic pressure to get Hezbollah to withdraw behind the Litani River, 30 kilometers from the border – as stipulated in a UN resolution from 2006. The pro-Iranian Shiite militia is considered to be significantly more powerful than Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

According to experts, Israel is still a long way from defeating Hamas. In an interview, an Israeli army spokesman emphatically called for a political vision for the future of the Gaza Strip. “Hamas is an idea, it is a party. It is rooted in the hearts of the people. Anyone who thinks we can eliminate Hamas is mistaken,” army spokesman Daniel Hagari told Israeli broadcaster Channel 13.

An alternative to Hamas must be found at the political level to replace it in the Gaza Strip, Hagari continued in the interview. Otherwise, the Islamist terrorist organization will continue to exist, he warned. Talking about the destruction of Hamas is misleading the public.

With his statements, he raised doubts about the declared war aim of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government: to end Hamas’ rule in the Gaza Strip and to destroy its military capabilities. The army is “naturally committed to this,” said a statement from the Prime Minister’s office following Hagari’s comments. Netanyahu had repeatedly spoken of “total victory” over Hamas.

The army spokesman’s words reflected the military leadership’s growing frustration over the Netanyahu government’s failure to develop a post-war alternative to Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip, wrote the New York Times. A month ago, Israeli Defense Minister Joav Galant had already sharply criticized his country’s indecision on the question of who should rule Gaza after the war.

Galant had demanded that a political alternative to Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip be created. Without such an alternative, only two negative options remained: a continuation of Hamas rule or Israeli military rule. Former general Benny Gantz recently left the war cabinet because the government had not developed a plan for a post-war order in the Gaza Strip. To date, Netanyahu has not presented such a plan – probably also in order not to offend his ultra-right coalition partners, on whom his political survival depends. They are calling for the re-establishment of Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip.