In a significant development in the tumultuous Middle East, Hassan Nasrallah, the influential leader of the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah, has issued a veiled warning of potential escalation along the Lebanon-Israel border as the Israel-Hamas conflict approaches a critical one-month mark.
In his first televised address since a deadly incursion by Palestinian militants into southern Israel on October 7, Nasrallah fell short of an outright declaration of full-scale involvement in the conflict. The implications of such a move are dire for both Lebanon and Israel, but Nasrallah’s words are raising eyebrows.
According to reports, the United States, Israel’s staunch ally, has issued stern warnings to Hezbollah and its benefactor, Iran, cautioning them against stepping into the already explosive situation. They’ve even dispatched warships to the Mediterranean. But Nasrallah remains resolute, declaring that these military maneuvers “will not scare us.”
Moreover, he asserted that Hezbollah is prepared for all possible scenarios and could trigger them at any moment. What’s abundantly clear is that the scale of this conflict is far from limited. In recent weeks, Hezbollah has been unleashing daily rocket attacks across the border, predominantly targeting military installations in northern Israel.
Nasrallah’s address was highly anticipated, with many perceiving it as a potential tipping point in the Israel-Hamas conflict, potentially transforming it into a full-blown regional war. Nasrallah, however, clarified that Hezbollah had already stepped into the fray on October 8. He argued that their cross-border strikes have diverted Israeli forces that would otherwise be laser-focused on countering Hamas in Gaza.
The response to Nasrallah’s speech was explosive in its own right, with celebratory gunfire ringing out across Beirut. Thousands gathered in the southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital, watching Nasrallah’s address on massive screens. The situation along the Israel-Lebanon border witnessed a significant escalation on Thursday, with Hezbollah raining down a barrage of mortar shells, anti-tank missiles, and, for the very first time, suicide drones.
On the Israeli front, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken engaged in high-stakes meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, emphasizing the need to protect civilians amid the Hamas conflict. This comes as Israeli forces tighten their encirclement of Gaza City.
Nasrallah minced no words in lambasting the robust U.S. support for Israel’s relentless bombardment of Gaza, which has resulted in the deaths of over 9,000 people, the majority of whom are innocent civilians. Although U.S. officials have begun advocating more publicly for the protection of Gaza’s civilian populace, a formal call for a cease-fire remains elusive.
Nasrallah’s nod of approval for the October 7 incursion by Palestinian militants into Israel speaks volumes about the vulnerabilities he sees in the Israeli defense apparatus. He insisted that this audacious operation was meticulously planned by the Palestinians, with no strings attached from Hezbollah.
While some Palestinian terrorist group leaders have urged Hezbollah to expand its role in the conflict, Hezbollah remains strategically vague about its threshold for full engagement. They’ve pursued a calculated approach to keep Israel’s military engaged along the Lebanese border without igniting an all-encompassing war.
Israel has reported its own set of casualties, with seven soldiers and one civilian falling victim to the conflict on the northern border as of Friday. On the Lebanese side, over 50 fighters, along with 10 militants from allied groups, and tragically, 10 civilians, including a Reuters journalist, have lost their lives. In no uncertain terms, Netanyahu issued a stern caution to Hezbollah, emphasizing that a miscalculation on their part would result in an unimaginable price.
Israel, cognizant of the Iran-backed threat that Hezbollah poses, estimates that the militant group possesses an arsenal of approximately 150,000 rockets and missiles, poised menacingly in the direction of Israel. They also boast an array of drones and a diverse assortment of missile systems.
A comprehensive conflict, however, could be ruinous for Hezbollah, which last went toe-to-toe with Israel in a 34-day war back in 2006. While that battle ended in a stalemate, it wasn’t without extensive damage as Israeli bombing left significant parts of southern Lebanon, the eastern Bekaa Valley, and Beirut’s southern suburbs in ruins.
Adding to the complexity of this brewing storm is the potential humanitarian catastrophe. A full-blown war would displace hundreds of thousands of Hezbollah supporters in southern Lebanon and deal a devastating blow at a time when Lebanon is already reeling from a severe economic crisis.
As we navigate these treacherous waters, it is clear that both Hezbollah and international players, including the United States, are treading carefully, recognizing the perils of allowing this regional conflict to further spiral out of control.
Good Riddance to UNRWA as it Supports Hamas
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The head of UNRWA recently accused Israel of waging an “expanded, concerted campaign” to destroy the UN agency. The leader of UNRWA does have a cause for concern, as Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stated that UNRWA has “lost legitimacy and can no longer function as a UN body.” UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer stated that “The rot is systemic, and that’s why we’re holding a conference…to replace UNRWA.” And now Congressional Republicans are probing the Biden administration’s decision to restore US funding to UNRWA in 2021, following the Trump administration’s suspension of that funding in 2018.
Good riddance to UNRWA if it ends up folding under pressure; UNRWA and the UN are Hamas apologists at best, and facilitators at worst. For example, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator actually insisted that “Hamas is not a terrorist group for us,” but merely a “political movement.” And the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories, in a rejoinder to the French president calling the October 7 attack “the largest anti-Semitic massacre of our century,” stated that “No, Mr. Macron. The victims of [the October 7 attack] were not killed because of their Judaism, but in response to Israel’s oppression.”
UNRWA Employees Provide Material Support to Hamas, PIJ
Israeli Defense Minister Galant has named 12 specific UNRWA employees who “actively participated” in Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel, and also stated that Israel has “significant indications based on intelligence” that implicates “over 30” additional UNRWA employees. Gallant stated that of UNRWA’s 13,000 staff in Gaza, “1,468 workers are known to be active in Hamas and PIJ, 185 UNRWA workers are active in the military branches of Hamas and 51 are active in the PIJ military branch.”
Additional to those numbers are the 30 UNRWA teachers known to have celebrated the October 7 attacks on a UNRWA Telegram group that had 3,000 members.
Hamas’ “Data Center” Found Underneath UNRWA Headquarters
Israel also found a Hamas “data center” under UNRWA’s headquarters in Gaza, equipped with an electrical room, computer servers and rooms where Hamas operatives could work and sleep, and that there were power lines connecting UNRWA’s headquarters to this data center. And surprise, some of the equipment found was made in Iran and China. Interestingly, while the Hamas “data center” contained electronics, a server room in the above-ground UNRWA headquarters had most of its electronics missing, which appears to be indicative of “actions of someone who knew the army was coming and wanted to hide the evidence,” according to Col. Benny Aharon of Israel’s 401st Armored Brigade. After the head of UNRWA denied that UNRWA knew of this data center ahead of time, Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) tweeted “Oh, you knew,” and stated that Israel had warned UN officials about the data center but those officials chose to ignore those warnings.
Additional Evidence of Strong UNRWA/Hamas Partnership
Additionally, UN Watch cited instances of UNRWA/Hamas synergy, including that Israel found:
- At the UNRWA headquarters above ground, weapons and “documents that indicated that the same offices were also used by Hamas”;
- UNRWA aid bags in Yahya Sinwar’s bunker;
- UNRWA concrete in Hamas’ tunnels that housed hostages;
- Missiles and rockets under UNRWA equipment;
- That Hamas stashed ammunition, explosives, and weapons in UNRWA bags, and that Hamas also had UN vests;
- That Hamas stored weapons in and fired weapons from a UNRWA school; and
- That Hamas’ “Ministry of Health” stole 24,000 gallons of fuel from UNRWA.
And to further emphasize the scope of how seriously UNRWA is compromised by Hamas, every single UNRWA “site, school, mosque, [and] kindergarten” that Israel has inspected had weapons, according to Israel’s commander of the 646th Reserve Paratroopers Brigade.
Calls to preserve UNRWA merely deflect away from the “systemic” “rot” found in the organization. Israel should make sure that UNRWA does not operate in any post-war Gaza, as the organization compromises the security of the Jewish state.
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