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Updated Dec 12, 2023, 11:03am EST
securityMiddle East
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Semafor Signals

Is Israel about to open a second front with Lebanon?

Aircraft leave vapour trails in the sky above Beirut, Lebanon December 10, 2023. REUTERS/Cynthia Karam
REUTERS/Cynthia Karam
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Israel has warned that it will respond to ramped up attacks from militant group Hezbollah on its border with Lebanon.

Israeli defense officials have repeatedly said in recent days that they would not tolerate a threat from the Iran-backed militia, and so far, both sides have avoided escalating the conflict beyond lobbying artillery fire over the border.

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Fears are growing, however, that missteps could lead to Israel opening up a second front in its more than two-month-long war against Hamas.

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SIGNALS

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

Testing relationships with allies

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Source:  
Politico

Israel has taken a “no compromises” approach to the war, ignoring allies who have cautioned it against escalations. The U.S. has warned other actors in the region — namely Iran and Hezbollah — not to enter the war. “But an even greater test of Israeli-American relations may be in the offing as well,” Jamie Dettmer writes for Politico, if Israel pushes back against Hezbollah. A senior Israeli official told Politico that the country had repeatedly defied the U.S.’ advice not to enter Gaza and Hamas’ tunnels, and not to attack hospitals, “but we did what we needed to do.” Dettmer notes that “noncompliance is in the tradition of Israeli-U.S. relations.”

Escalation could be around the corner

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Sources:  
The Times of Israel, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post

A conflict on Israel’s northern border could be “a mistake away,” one Israeli defense official told the Wall Street Journal. Thousands of IDF soldiers have amassed at the border, and Israel and Hezbollah have exchanged fire amid the ongoing Gaza war. Israel’s actions have allegedly gone further than shelling: The Washington Post found that the IDF used U.S.-supplied white phosphorous in an October attack on southern Lebanon. Last week, Israeli defense minister Yoav Gallant said that the IDF would use “all the means at its disposal” if diplomatic action to stop Hezbollah failed.

Hezbollah’s arsenal of powerful weapons

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Sources:  
The Financial Times, CNN, The Wall Street Journal

Hezbollah is one of the world’s most heavily-armed non-state organizations. Among its newest munitions are short-range rockets capable of carrying 1,000 pounds of explosives, and those that can reach anywhere in Israel. To date, Hezbollah has held off on using its most powerful weaponry, suggesting “that for the time being, they don’t want an all-out war,” CNN’s Ivan Watson told the network’s Tug of War podcast. “But the rhetoric is concerning.”

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