International American Council

International American Council
Middle East and North Africa

Hezbollah clashes with Israel

On Wednesday, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, claimed responsibility for an explosion of bombs planted by an Israeli military convoy in Lebanon that killed four Israeli soldiers. This is the first proclaimed act of violence from Hezbollah towards Israel since the 2006 Lebanon War.

Closely following this attack, there was a deadly car bombing in the Hezbollah-controlled Rweiss district of Beirut that killed nearly two dozen people. Although DNA tests have not confirmed the identity of the bomber, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and other higher-up Lebanese politicians claimed the attack had the fingerprints of Israel on it, and Nasrallah swore swift and deadly retaliation for the attacks. 

In response, Israeli President Shimon Peres made a public statement to United Nations head Ban Ki-moon deflecting blame for the Rweiss bombing, and even denying that the Israeli soldiers whom Hezbollah killed were actually in Lebanon at the time of the attacks.

It is not immediately clear whether this attack was actually a retaliation by Israel against Hezbollah, but the uptick in violent encounters between the two entities in recent weeks is certainly indicative of a wave of returning violence in the region on many poles, which was ultimately sparked by the Syrian civil war.

Hezbollah had not been active in a large-scale military operation since the 2006 Lebanon War, although it was increasing its activity in Lebanese civil politics, and was probably involved in smaller attacks. However, when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began to be aggressively challenged by largely Sunni dissidents, who shifted from protests to military operations, Hezbollah, which like Assad is Shi’a-affiliated, stepped in to support the side of the Syrian central government.

The activities of both Hezbollah and its affiliates on one hand and Sunni militants and their affiliates on the other hand have been so long-lasting and widespread that violence has spilled over into Syria’s neighbors—especially Lebanon and Israel, although even the usually peaceful Jordan has experienced greater turmoil. This has led to secondary fighting taking place between Hezbollah and their proclaimed enemy of Israel, in addition to the main Syrian conflict.

The fighting in the entire Levant region is so widespread that each party is fighting groups on all sides. Israel is focused on Hezbollah, of course, but also on Hamas and other Sunni anti-Israeli groups, most of which have publicly proclaimed against the Assad coalition. Hezbollah is fighting both Sunni insurgents within Syria and, opportunistically, Israeli soldiers. 

Because of the multipolarity of this conflict, as has been shown with this most recent Hezbollah-Israel violence, finding a solution to the Syrian civil war is growing ever more complicated. Nasrallah has committed Hezbollah to continuing violence not only against Israel and Sunni insurgents within Syria, but also Sunni insurgents within Lebanon. As this conflict continues, it seems more and more likely that any peace solution will have to involve closure with Israel and Lebanon, possibly with the involvement of Jordan and Turkey, which have both absorbed considerable numbers of refugees and which have proclaimed support for the opposition.

By Laura Gates

Source: Washington Post, Times of Israel, Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times

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