On Thursday night, three rockets were fired from Lebanon at northern Israel raising fears that a new front in the current conflict was opening up.
Then on Friday, protestors in Lebanon briefly breached the border fence with Israel before being pushed back by Israeli army gunfire.
The rockets – reportedly fired by radical PLO-affiliated terrorists in Lebanon and not Hezbollah – are believed to have landed in the sea off Israel’s northern coast. But they are a chilling reminder that the Iranian terrorist proxy Hezbollah, Lebanon’s de facto ruler, constitutes an even greater menace than Hamas in Gaza.
The fact that these rockets were fired at all brought to the forefront what many Israelis had been wondering the past week: Will Hezbollah join the fighting against Israel? And, could the conflict with Hamas in the south be a dress rehearsal for a potentially far more devastating war with the far more powerful Hezbollah in the north?
During the current Gaza conflict, the terrorist organizations Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have fired more than 2,000 rockets into Israel, causing major havoc among Israeli civilians across southern and central Israel.
Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad reportedly have around 14,000 rockets in Gaza according to Israeli intelligence assessments. Most of the Gaza-based arsenal consists of shorter-range rockets that mainly threaten Israel’s southern cities and communities.
By contrast, Hezbollah’s vast rocket arsenal is at least 10 times larger. In late 2015, Israeli intelligence estimated that Hezbollah has at least 150,000 rockets pointing at Israeli cities. Given Iran’s continued massive military aid to Hezbollah, the stockpile is likely even larger in 2021.
In other words, Hezbollah is Hamas on steroids.
Much of Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal can reach any point inside Israel. However, the power differential between Hezbollah and Hamas is not merely quantitative but also qualitative. With considerable assistance from the Iranian regime, Hezbollah has invested massively in a growing arsenal of precision missiles that can hit any target inside Israel with frightening accuracy the moment its Iranian masters greenlight such strikes. Israeli officials increasingly view the threat from Hezbollah’s vast rocket arsenal as the greatest conventional menace facing the Jewish state, second only to Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Will Hezbollah join the current Hamas-led rocket assault on Israel?
The Iranian regime controls Islamic Jihad and supports Hamas. However, while the Gaza-based terrorist groups constitute a tactical weapon against Israel, the far more powerful Hezbollah is Iran’s strategic weapon against the Jewish state.
No doubt, Hezbollah and Iranian officials are carefully studying Israel’s response to the intense rocket fire from Gaza. Hezbollah and Iran are also studying how Israel’s air defense system is operating and handling hundreds of incoming rockets from Gaza. In a future potential war with Hezbollah, thousands of rockets could be raining on the Jewish state. The Iranian regime and Hezbollah are also studying the Biden administration’s handling of the conflict between Hamas and Israel. If they detect growing daylight between Washington and Jerusalem, the risk of a wider regional war in the Middle East will increase.
While anything is possible in the volatile Middle East, it is quite unlikely that Hezbollah will enter the conflict now, especially if a strong Israeli military response continues to decimate Hamas’s offensive capabilities. Despite Israeli mistakes made during the Second Lebanon War with Hezbollah in 2006, the Iranian-backed terrorist organization currently appears sufficiently deterred from launching a new war against Israel.
Hezbollah and their Iranian masters likely view the current Hamas conflict as a test balloon and learning opportunity for a future war with the Jewish state at a time that suits the regime in Tehran.
The Iranian regime is currently focused on the nuclear agreement negotiations and having the crippling U.S. sanctions removed. In addition, the Iranian presidential election will be held on June 18.
During this crucial period, the Iranian regime is interested in projecting a deceiving façade of moderation towards the Biden administration. Since lifting the U.S.-led sanctions remains Iran’s current top priority, a new war between Hezbollah and Israel is likely off the table for now.