What To Know About the Israel-Hezbollah Clashes - The World News

What To Know About the Israel-Hezbollah Clashes

Israel and Hezbollah have traded fire across the Lebanese border since the start of the war in Gaza, with more than 150,000 people on both sides of the boundary forced to flee their homes. But the intensity of the attacks has increased in recent days, leading to fears of a full-scale war on another front.

This week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel threatened further military action to ensure the return of civilians to communities in northern Israel. Here are some key questions about the conflict and where it might be heading:

Hezbollah, a powerful Lebanese militia and political movement, launched attacks into Israel on Oct. 8, answering calls by Hamas to open a second front a day after the Palestinian armed group that rules Gaza led a deadly assault on Israel. Both Hezbollah and Hamas are backed by Iran.

Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has said that his group is trying to pin Israel’s troops along the border and limit its capacity to attack Hamas in Gaza.

Hezbollah’s conflict with Israel goes back decades. Israel has invaded Lebanon three times in the last 50 years, most recently in 2006, when the two sides fought a monthlong war that killed more than 1,000 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and more than 150 in Israel, mostly soldiers. The current round of fighting marks the most serious escalation since then.

Israel in February launched its deepest strikes into Lebanon in years, hitting the Bekaa Valley in response to a surface-to-air missile attack that downed an Israeli drone over southern Lebanon.

In April, Hezbollah launched a drone and missile attack on northern Israel that wounded 14 soldiers, one of whom died. Later that month, the group claimed to have launched its deepest attack in Israel since October, targeting a barracks north of the city of Acre with drones.

In recent weeks, Hezbollah for the first time began targeting Israel’s vaunted Iron Dome missile defense system.

This week, a Hezbollah rocket attack caused wildfires to break out in northern Israel, prompting Mr. Netanyahu on Wednesday to issue a threat of “very intense action” to “restore security to the north.”

Strikes across the border have caused casualties on both sides. In Lebanon, Hezbollah says that more than 300 fighters have been killed, while the United Nations says that around 80 civilians have died. In Israel, the authorities say that 19 security personnel and at least eight civilians have been killed.

Some senior Hezbollah and Hamas officials have also been assassinated in Lebanon. A top Hamas official, Saleh al-Arouri, died in a suspected Israeli strike outside Beirut in January. A commander of Hezbollah’s elite Radwan force was killed in southern Lebanon the same month.

The Israel authorities have ordered the evacuation of 60,000 civilians from border areas. On the Lebanon side, over 90,000 people have fled their homes.

Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly said he is determined to push Hezbollah back from the border and allow displaced Israelis to return home, a key domestic political issue. Analysts say pressure from his far-right coalition allies could prompt him to launch a wider attack.

But with thousands of fighters and a vast arsenal of rockets, Hezbollah is capable of hitting infrastructure and cities across Israel, and any invasion of Lebanon would likely prove costly for Israeli forces as they continue to battle Hamas in Gaza.

A war would also devastate Lebanon, which is grappling with political deadlock and the effects of a historic economic collapse. During the 2006 war, Israeli strikes flattened large areas of Beirut and displaced nearly one million people.

Hezbollah’s deputy leader, Sheikh Naim Qassem, said this week that the armed group was not seeking to widen the conflict, but would wage war if attacked. The Biden administration has sought since Oct. 7 to prevent a wider regional war and to bring the two sides to the table, but Hezbollah says it will not negotiate until the war in Gaza ends.

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