Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has signalled that his armed forces will shortly shift the focus of its military activities north to its border with Lebanon.

Earlier this week, he said that the “intense phase of fighting Hamas in Gaza is nearly over”.

The war in Gaza may be slowly winding down, but it has definitely not ended. The IDF is finalising its current operations in Rafah in the south and will turn to a raid-based strategy rather than a wholescale invasion, much as it has done in the rest of Gaza. The drawdown in operations will allow the IDF to thin out and commit its troops elsewhere.

Hamas has not been defeated but has been severely mauled, and its military potential much reduced and degraded.


This article is the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the UK Defence Journal. If you would like to submit your own article on this topic or any other, please see our submission guidelines.


It now looks as if Israel will be content to maintain an acceptable level of violence in Gaza for the foreseeable future while it continues to hunt down and eliminate the surviving Hamas leadership “by other means”.

Hezbollah, Hamas’ ally in south Lebanon, has vowed to continue to lob missiles into northern Israel until peace comes to Gaza, a prospect still some way in the future if it ever comes to pass. And so now Israel has to confront its enemy in the north.

Hezbollah is a much more dangerous enemy than Hamas. While the latter could field perhaps 30,000 fighters in Gaza at the start of the conflict there, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah once boasted that he could call upon 100,000 trained fighters.

Whilst most observers reckon this is an exaggeration, they may actually be able to call upon up to 50,000 regular and reserve personnel, and they are directly sponsored, armed, and trained by Iran, Israel’s sworn enemy. Its strategy against Israel is largely based on its rocket and missile armoury, of which it may have as many as 120,000.

They have been launching missiles, rockets, and drones into northern Israel since the present round of conflict began with Hamas’ attack on Israel on 7th October last year. 

Hezbollah is no stranger to conflict with Israel, having fought against them in conventional and unconventional operations over the past forty years. In addition to the Lebanese Civil War from 1975-1990, they fought against the IDF in various conflicts in the early part of this century and have been actively involved in both the Syrian and Yemen civil wars. Most recently they have threatened to target Cyprus if it “opens its airports and bases to Israeli forces”. 

Their recent activity in support of their Hamas allies has been a thorn in Israel’s side since well before the start of the Gaza operation, and now it looks as if Netanyahu’s government has run out of patience and is determined to do something about it.

Both Hezbollah and Israel say they don’t want another war in south Lebanon, but it may be too late to prevent it. On paper, the IDF should be able to sweep Hezbollah aside with ease and destroy it, but I suspect few in Israel will relish yet another military foray into southern Lebanon, although Netanyahu has declared that his forces are strong and powerful enough to fight on multiple fronts if need be.

The bigger worry, of course, is that any direct confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah has the potential to bring in Iran in support of its proxies and Israel’s allies to intervene physically on its behalf. 

As I have written oftentimes before, at some point the USA is going to have to deal with Iran. Will this prove to be the tipping point, or will wiser heads prevail? 

First published in the Daily Express, printed here with permission. Lt Col Stuart Crawford is a defence analyst and former army officer. Sign up for his podcasts and newsletters at www.DefenceReview.uk.

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Stuart Crawford was a regular officer in the Royal Tank Regiment for twenty years, retiring in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1999. Crawford attended both the British and US staff colleges and undertook a Defence Fellowship at Glasgow University. He now works as a political, defence and security consultant and is a regular commentator on military and defence topics in print, broadcast and online media.
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Jon
Jon (@guest_829780)
16 days ago

Israel is about to do exactly what I said months ago that Iran wanted: to fight Hamas and Hezbolla serially. Iran’s (and the Palestinian Leadership’s) goal is to keep Israel in the world’s news for as many continuous days as possible alongside pictures of dying Palestinians. When the War in Gaza cools, a new one in Lebanon kicks off and we have more months of headlines. Netanyahu is as predicatable as a sunset, and very dangerous to his own country.

Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_829876)
16 days ago
Reply to  Jon

It’s starts to become a worst case scenario for Israel if it ends up fighting a war with Hezbollah, while still engaged on the ground with Hamas in Gaza…Israel hits a point where it’s possible it could suffer reversal. People forget Isreal is a very very small county..it does not have any ability to exchange land for time..and if Hezbollah did manage to Break its lines it would get nasty quickly…not only that Hezbollahs rocket artillery is very very significant… most worrying is that Isreal has made it clear it cannot put up with the continued attack along the boarder… Read more »

Tams
Tams (@guest_829894)
16 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

I’m quite honestly fed up with the whole region bar Jordan.

Neither side have ever even half apologised for attacking British troops who were trying to keep the peace there either. We quite frankly owe them all nothing.

Tullzter
Tullzter (@guest_829908)
16 days ago
Reply to  Tams

are you this clueless about history??

Barry Larking
Barry Larking (@guest_829958)
15 days ago
Reply to  Tullzter

Tell us Brits more, please do.

Tullzter
Tullzter (@guest_829982)
15 days ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

You re fed up with the region that you helped carve up, occupied and ruled over?

Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_830047)
15 days ago
Reply to  Tullzter

Umm I think you will find the brits simply got to hold the ring when the Ottoman Empire collapses over around 20 years..effectively placed in the impossible position of trying to manage the collapse of a multi ethic empire it had nothing to do with creating….so UK blame in this case is completely fatuous…and revisionist history of the worst kind….if you want to go over the history and blame in the Levant I’m very happy to go there but be warned your going to get a lot of very long evidence based posts based on “3000 years of geopolitical and… Read more »

Last edited 15 days ago by Jonathan
Simon
Simon (@guest_830114)
15 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Jonathan like phrase uk holding the ring, basically when the music stopped. We probably were a bit stupid and drew lines on maps when regions were still tribal and not nation states. Boundaries would have been drawn inevitably.

Barry Larking
Barry Larking (@guest_830296)
14 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

The glaring aspect few seem to notice is the complaints are launched against the Brits from here not there. ‘British Get Out!’ I remember seeing that lots when young. We did get out and they followed us.

Barry Larking
Barry Larking (@guest_830294)
14 days ago
Reply to  Tullzter

Just people who, having got their own countries, promptly flee to the west.

Cj
Cj (@guest_830865)
12 days ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

👏👍

FormerUSAF
FormerUSAF (@guest_829999)
15 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Intriguing quote re Israeli employment of unspecified new weapon systems. Not certain of the logic of Hezbollah intent to escalate against an opponent w/ the capability to exponentially increase the level of retaliation. The Iranians would similarly be forced to contemplate the prospect of nationwide instantaneous urban renewal. Not stating that this conflict could not spiral from the internal logic of increasing levels of counter-escalation, but even the religiously zealotous mullahs presumably have to understand the ultimate existential threat to their regime’s existence. Very interesting potential scenario…🤔😳

Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_830053)
15 days ago
Reply to  FormerUSAF

I think the problem we have is not that the Iranian government is so extremist as to be willing to face extermination via nuclear fire..it’s that it’s been stoking and using extremism and anti Jewish hate for so long that it could loss control of its populations and paramilitaries if it did not push it….

The same problem exists in friendly Arab states such as Jordan..were Iran has been using political warfare to stir the populace..so Jordan etc have to be profoundly careful…otherwise they would end up with a revolution…

FormerUSAF
FormerUSAF (@guest_830119)
15 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Indeed, the Iranians may reap the harvest they have sown. Truly concerned for the consequences to the more moderate Arab states. 🤔

Bringer of facts
Bringer of facts (@guest_829940)
15 days ago

This is a never-ending war of religious/cultural supremacy. It is no longer a war about land, a two-state solution has been on the table for decades and has always been rejected by the Palestinian side. Lebanon/Beruit pre-1975 was a peaceful and prosperous place run by Maronite Christians. The spillover from the Arab-Israeli war resulted in the Islamists establishing a foothold there which triggered a 15-year civil war. In that time Iran took the opportunity to establish Hezbollah. Hezbollah like Hamas, hides their fighters and weapons in civilian areas. This would be a very costly war for Israel, but I would… Read more »

Barry Larking
Barry Larking (@guest_829960)
15 days ago

Exactly so and it puzzles me why so many don’t comprehend this. Iran began these offensives because of the historic Abraham Accords sponsored by President Trump. The sight of Israelis in the Sunni Gulf States building bridges was too much for Shia Iran. The Shia versus Sunni split has propelled much more of the recent violence in the region than even than Jew hatred; one of the drivers of better relations between predominantly Sunni nations and Israel was fear of Shia Iran and and its nuclear ambition. Iran had a problem that it could not project its powers against Israel… Read more »

Bringer of facts
Bringer of facts (@guest_830086)
15 days ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

Exactly.

If Israel and its entire Jewish population disappeared tomorrow, the next jihad would start up against the Christian population, and after that it would be Sunni vs Shia.

Barry Larking
Barry Larking (@guest_830298)
14 days ago

Thank you. So few grasp this aspect of the cult.

Cj
Cj (@guest_830866)
12 days ago

Well said 👍

Barry Larking
Barry Larking (@guest_829957)
15 days ago

The war in Gaza may be slowly winding down, but it has definitely not ended. The IDF is finalising its current operations in Rafah in the south and will turn to a raid-based strategy rather than a wholescale invasion, much as it has done in the rest of Gaza. The drawdown in operations will allow the IDF to thin out and commit its troops elsewhere.’

Tis operation will be studied for years to come.

‘Israel’s sworn enemy’. Hardly. It is a religious duty for all of time that most people do not understand nor grasp.

John
John (@guest_829992)
15 days ago

I would guess Benny is yes, predictable, but on the other hand knows an Iran confrontation is inevitable. People forget Israel could turn Iran into glass within hours. Look at how they needed persuading to stay out when Saddam was throwing Scuds at them decades ago. Long term, Iran has to be dealt with.

Jon
Jon (@guest_830234)
14 days ago
Reply to  John

Nobody forgets, certainly not Iran. However, Israel will never use its nukes unless it’s about to go under. It had them during the Yom Kippur War and in all the wars since then. Not only doesn’t it threaten with nukes, it doesn’t even acknowledge them. Russia could learn from Israel that when it comes to nuclear threats, less is as good as more.