Lloyd Austin, the U.S. defense secretary, had a phone call with Israel’s top defense chief, Yoav Gallant, and raised concerns about a widening conflict.
Axios, citing individuals briefed on the matter, reported that some officials in the White House are “worried that Israel is trying to provoke Hezbollah and create a pretext for a wider war in Lebanon that could draw the U.S. and other countries further into the conflict.”
Reuters reported that Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon have been squaring off with Israeli troops in deadly clashes since the 7 October Hamas attack that killed 1,200 Israelis. At least 70 Hezbollah fighters and civilians have been killed in these exchanges since the Hamas raid.
“The IDF is focused on Gaza but we are at a very high state of readiness in the north,” Israeli Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said. “Lebanon’s citizens will bear the cost of this recklessness, and of Hezbollah’s decision to be the defender of Hamas-ISIS.”
Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary-general, gave a televised speech last week—his first since the 7 October Hamas attack on Israel—and warned Israel that it is just a matter of time before it faces a muli-front conflict.
Nasrallah appealed to his followers to be patient.
“For those who say that Hezbollah should start a war in the entire region, I say wait,” he said, according to The Wall Street Journal. “These are just the beginnings. More actions will be taken against Israel from several different fronts.”
He continued, “Israel fears that this front could snowball toward a regional war, and this scenario is realistic, and could definitely happen.”
Nasrallah called on protesters to take to the streets in opposition to Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza and said it is only the U.S. and Britain that continue to stand with Israel.
“Hezbollah is dragging Lebanon into a war that may happen, and it is making mistakes. If it makes mistakes of this kind, the ones who will pay the price are first of all the citizens of Lebanon. What we are doing in Gaza we know how to do in Beirut,” Gallant said.
He continued: “Our pilots are sitting in the cockpit, the noses of the planes are pointing north. We have enough to do in the south, but the Air Force is facing north and its power is very great.”
TRENDPOST: There is a growing call in Lebanon for Hezbollah to enter the war against Israel, no matter the cost. (See “ISRAEL WILL MAKE HEZBOLLAH PAY IF PARAMILITARY GROUP ENTERS WAR, NETANYAHU SAYS” 24 Oct 2023, “HEZBOLLAH HEAD BLAMES IDF FOR CARRYING OUT 7 OCTOBER MASSACRE” 7 Nov 2023, and “WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS THEY TAKE YOU TO WAR: NETANYAHU KNEW ABOUT LOOMING ATTACK” 7 Nov 2023.)
Al Jazeera reported Sunday that residents in a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut have called for an all-out war and have been disappointed by Nasrallah’s comments.
“Hezbollah is fighting and they’re trying, but we want them to make more happen,” one 25-year-old said.
Tamir Hayman, the former head of Israel’s military intelligence, told Foreign Policy that Hezbollah is not “actively, full-scale involved, but actively, below the threshold of war, trying to create distraction in order to relieve tensions over Gaza, using drones, exploiting the Hamas capabilities and the Palestinian capabilities to launch mortar attacks on the Iron Dome [Israel’s missile defense system].”