Tensions between Israel and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah have been rising again in recent weeks after Hezbollah announced that it rejects a possible agreement between Israel and Lebanon on the demarcation of the economic maritime zones between the two countries, and threatened to attack Israeli vessels that are soon expected to drill for gas in the Karish gas field located off the coast of northern Israel.
The escalating tensions with Hezbollah are directly related to the internal situation in Lebanon and Iran’s strategy toward Israel, as well as the state of affairs in the nuclear negotiations between the US and Iran over renewal of the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic, as we shall see.
Let’s start with the growing tensions between Hezbollah and Israel.
Under the leadership of the American mediator Amos Hochstein, talks have been going on for more than six months to reach an agreement that will definitively define the economic maritime borders between Lebanon and Israel.
Those talks now appear to have entered a decisive phase, and in Lebanon some government officials are now optimistic about the chances of reaching an agreement.
Hezbollah, however, has refused to agree to any deal with arch-enemy Israel, and has threatened to start a war if the government in Jerusalem implements its intention to start drilling for gas in the Karish gas field by September 1.
This gas field is located in the waters off the coast of northern Israel, and Hezbollah claims it is partially located in the Lebanese economic maritime zone.
However, Israel has shown through satellite photos that Hezbollah’s claims are nonsense, and has now put its military (IDF) in a state of heightened readiness.
Hezbollah’s stance is not only related to the fact that it is part of the Iranian axis that is increasingly active against Israel. More on that later.
The internal situation in Lebanon also plays a significant role in Hezbollah’s opposition to an agreement with Israel.
With Lebanon now really on the brink of economic and social collapse, the Shiite terror movement is rapidly losing popularity.
Any solution to the huge economic crisis in Lebanon is being thwarted by Hezbollah because of political considerations.
Aid from, for example, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States is flatly rejected by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah because it would weaken the Iranian axis’ hold on Lebanon.
For Lebanon, an agreement with Israel on the maritime economic zones would mean significant and badly needed revenues from gas extraction for the devastated economy, but that didn’t cause any change in Hezbollah’s opposition against the deal.
Nasrallah recently moderated his rhetoric a bit after issuing almost daily threats against Israel, but this could also be seen as the calm before the storm.
In any case, tensions in southern Lebanon and northern Israel are mounting and are being exacerbated by the expansion of Hezbollah’s activities along the border with Israel, as we reported earlier.
On the other side of the border, the IDF is not taking any chances and is sending reinforcements to northern Israel.
Last Sunday, a large convoy of IDF military vehicles was spotted near the northernmost Israeli city of Metulla, while unusual activity was observed in the skies over northern Israel last Friday and Saturday.
As we will see, Iran does play a significant role in the now-developing crisis between Hezbollah and Israel.
This was admitted in so many words by Hossein Salami, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The IRGC commander spoke openly about the strategy toward Israel and said Iran is now providing weapons and financial assistance to Palestinian terrorists in Judea and Samaria despite the now-finally sealed security fence and the constant presence of the IDF.
The IRGC commander also spoke openly about the so-called multi-front war Iran wants to open against Israel.
Hezbollah will play an important role, Salami said, speaking of “hundreds of thousands of missiles lined up in front of the Zionist regime.”
The Iranian military leader also spoke of the need for a land invasion against Israel and said that missiles alone are not enough to conquer the country.
“The infantry must (literally) gain a foothold in order to liberate the country step by step,” according to Salami, who also claimed that the Israeli population is not prepared for “a long war because of the prosperity and comfortable life in the Zionist entity.”
The Palestinian terror groups must unite and then they will be able to operate much more effectively against Israel, according to the IRGC.
According to Salami there should be “human waves of the resistance axis” moving into Israel just like happened during the war against Iraq, when Iran even used children to serve as minesweepers against the many mines that Saddam Hussein’s army had laid in the border area.
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