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Jun 13, 2024, 2:57pm EDT
Middle East
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Semafor Signals

US cautions Israel against war with Hezbollah

Insights from Kan, Breaking Defense, Foreign Policy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and The Wall Street Journal

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Israeli border with Lebanon
Ayal Margolin/Reuters
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The News

The US is trying to steer Israel away from an escalating conflict with Hezbollah, after Israel killed a senior Hezbollah commander on Wednesday, leading the militant group to respond with its largest rocket attack on Israel since the current round of violence started in October 2023.

The Biden administration fears a full-scale war could break out, and American officials have warned how another conflict could jeopardize the security of the entire Middle East, Axios reported.

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“We don’t want this to escalate to a broad regional conflict and we urge de-escalation,” a Pentagon spokesperson said Tuesday.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Israel-Lebanon border is like a warzone

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Sources:  
The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Kan, Breaking Defense

Regular rocket attacks on northern Israel mean that at least 60,000 Israelis who left their homes in October remain displaced, The Wall Street Journal reported. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said he will ensure that they will be able to return home, and he is under pressure from the right to push Hezbollah back from the border, The New York Times reported. Polls by Israel’s national broadcaster found 55% of respondents believe Israel should expand its attacks on Hezbollah. On the Lebanese side of the border, a further 90,000 people are displaced, and frequent Israeli strikes have decimated many villages, leaving “only debris and ruins left,” Breaking Defense reported.

Hezbollah is ‘10 times stronger than Hamas’

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Sources:  
Anadolu Agency, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Arab Center Washington DC

Israel’s Defense Minister said last year that Hezbollah is “10 times stronger than Hamas.” If Israel expands its conflict with Hezbollah, it would face a much more prepared, well-armed adversary than it has in Gaza, and Hezbollah is estimated to have roughly three times as many fighters as Hamas. “Hezbollah’s tactical proficiency, combat experience, and will to fight make it a much deadlier threat than Hamas — and even other regional militaries,” experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies argued. “Hezbollah has become confident in its ability to ‘win’ the next conflict against Israel, even if this is likely to lead to widespread devastation, civilian casualties, and displacement in Lebanon,” one expert wrote.

Hezbollah and Israel have avoided war so far

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Sources:  
Foreign Policy, Bloomberg

Despite the tit-for-tat sparring, most analysts believe that both parties want to avoid all-out war. “Hezbollah knows that Lebanon would be destroyed, with thousands of casualties. But Israel is also aware that what it faced in Gaza over these past months, without achieving its full objectives, would be nothing compared to a war with Hezbollah,” an expert wrote in Foreign Policy. Even so, Israeli officials have warned that if Hezbollah continues to attack, it may be forced into a war. So far, diplomacy has failed, with Hezbollah saying it is unwilling to negotiate until a ceasefire is reached in Gaza.

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