12/13/2023, 12.23
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Hezbollah-Israel: 'Contained war' has already claimed 120 lives in Lebanon

by Fady Noun

Despite diplomatic efforts and the 'restraint' shown by the Shia movement on the border, the spectre of a regional explosion remains. Between 80 and 100 thousand inhabitants of border villages in the south have fled to various locations further north in the country. A cease-fire in Gaza is also the way to ease tension in Lebanon. Unresolved knots remain over compliance with Resolution 1701 for an end to hostilities on the border.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - More than two months after the start of the carnage in Gaza, the region may think that the risk of a large-scale escalation as had been feared at the start of hostilities has passed, with the war launched by Israel in response to the Hamas attack? We can hope so, but we can't say we're certain.

What is certain is that the detonator of this large-scale conflict is found in Lebanon. Hassan Nasrallah, general secretary of the pro-Iranian militia Hezbollah, clearly stated the signs that would indicate an expansion of the war. He invited journalists, eager to obtain previews of future moves, to focus their attention "on the ground".

The “red line” is the military collapse of Hamas, which Hezbollah has vowed to prevent in every way. However, and barring major unforeseen events, those close to the Shiite party believe that the resistance capabilities of the Palestinian movement that controls the Strip are far from exhausted, as Benjamin Netanyahu tries to make people believe, asking Hamas to "capitulate".

While waiting for a hypothetical Israeli victory, or a ceasefire in Gaza, Israel and Hezbollah become protagonists, on one side of the Israeli-Lebanese border, of painful, deterrent, in principle controlled bombings. Nonetheless, the "provocations" are multiplying, as happened on December 10 when the Israeli army attacked the village of Aïtaroun, with a neighborhood razed to the ground by the air force with the Star of David.

In reality, Hezbollah's strategy is to maintain a gradual scale of violence. However, this strategy of "containment" of the conflict is costly. Since October 7, violence on the Israeli-Lebanese border has caused more than 120 victims in Lebanon, most of them fighters from the Shiite movement, and at least 15 civilians including three journalists, according to an AFP tally.

A Lebanese soldier was killed yesterday by Israeli strikes that the government said "mistakenly" targeted Lebanese armed forces. The mayor of Taybé, 78-year-old Hussein Mansour, was killed by a grenade and Hezbollah announced the deaths of two fighters. Furthermore, between 80 and 100 thousand inhabitants of border villages in the south have fled to various locations further north of the country, in particular to Tyre.

Military and diplomatic sources assure that neither Hezbollah nor Iran want a total confrontation in which they know they cannot win. For this reason, neither the Islamic Republic nor its local satellite want a broader, even conventional confrontation, in which the Land of Cedars would pay the price, thanks to the total control of the skies by the Jewish State.

The diplomatic option

Seeking a “victory,” the Israeli government through its Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, promised last week “to push Hezbollah beyond the Litani, whether through international political regulation [the literal application of Resolution 1701, which put an end to the 2006 war, ed.], both through military action”.

This statement, which takes the form of a threat, is actually good news. Indeed, it reveals that Washington has convinced its ally to give diplomacy a chance. On the Lebanese side, it makes it clear that Hezbollah does not close the door to the option, as compliance with resolution 1701 and a withdrawal north of the Litani of its fighters, in particular its elite al-Radwan force, would entail.

In exchange, according to sources close to the Speaker of the House Nabih Berry, the Shiite party would ask for and obtain from Israel compliance with UN resolution 425 and the Lebanese recovery of the suburb of Shebaa occupied in 1967.

Added to these would be the 13 rectifications of the "blue line ” requests from Lebanon, the recognition of coastal point B1 in relation to the maritime border, as well as an end to the violation of Lebanese airspace.

For Hezbollah, an agreement based on Resolution 1701 would also offer domestic political advantages. By forcing him to respect a certain territory in front of Israel, it would indirectly sanction his role in the famous "defense strategy" that all Lebanese sovereignist parties invoke.

To avoid the difficult choice of launching a global war, the Lebanese Shiite movement therefore seems to be betting on an Israeli renunciation of Gaza, which would translate into a ceasefire and not a simple truce.

However, the Israeli prime minister is asking for one or two more months to crush Hamas, where the situation is already approaching winter. Will the international community let the people of Gaza die of hunger and cold to save Netanyahu's political career? It is a question that today seems to remain unanswered, just like the appeals of the United Nations Secretary General, Unicef, Unrwa, WHO and European parliament.

Finally, compliance with Resolution 1701 will not resolve the issue of a two-state solution to the Palestinian cause. Hamas's desperate, and partly suicidal, uprising on October 7 succeeded in bringing the Palestinian cause back to center stage. But there is no political horizon as long as this party denies Israel's right to exist.

And as long as Israel wants to destroy it. But assuming that mutual recognition is achieved, which some consider "a chimera", where will the Palestinians settle, given the massive presence of Israeli settlements in the West Bank which Israel does not seem willing to give up? Washington should think about it. Meanwhile, in the words of House Speaker Berry, "if the violence against Gaza continues, every Arab will feel like a Palestinian and every Palestinian will feel like a member of Hamas."

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Hamas attack on Israel planned (for months) in Beirut
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