Israel sees fronts multiply in its war against Hamas | International

Israel sees fronts multiply in its war against Hamas |
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The fear of a regional expansion of the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza has become partly a reality, although contained around the borders, five weeks after the attack by the Islamist militia on the border of the Strip. Benny Gantz, former Minister of Defense and current member of the emergency government for the conflict, has acknowledged that his country is fighting a “multi-front war” while fighting the Islamist militia in the Palestinian Mediterranean enclave.

“The focus is on Gaza, but we are also fighting, with defense and attack actions, both in the north and in the rest [de las fronteras]” Gantz, who led the previous large-scale conflict in the Strip in 2014 as Chief of Staff General, warned on Tuesday at the Armed Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv. It was then the first month of a war that has already claimed 1,200 lives in Israel and more than 11,000 in the Palestinian territory. The attacks against Israel, mostly by militias and armed groups associated with Iran, extend from the borders of Lebanon and Syria, to the West Bank and the Red Sea.

North Front

The escalation of war on the border between Lebanon and Israel has opened the largest scene of hostilities after that of the Gaza Strip, and the most explosive. Since October 7, 90 people have died, 70 of them members of the pro-Iran Hezbollah militia, in Lebanese territory. The exchanges of rocket fire from the Shiite guerrillas and the Israeli artillery on both sides of the Blue Line, which marks the divide between two countries that are still technically at war, are becoming more intense and with greater range every day. This Saturday they reached an area located 45 kilometers north of the border, where an Israeli drone attacked a Lebanese vehicle.

Former Israeli general Yossi Kuperwasser, who was head of the intelligence research division of the Armed Forces, believes that “the escalation on the Lebanon front is being carried out in a controlled manner.” “But as Israel infiltrates Gaza City,” he admits, “we are going to witness a greater warlike confrontation on the Lebanese border,” he said this Thursday at a conference for foreign journalists in Jerusalem. In his opinion, “neither Israel nor Hezbollah seem willing to launch into a full-scale war,” as in 2006. Then 1,300 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 165 Israelis, almost all military, perished in 33 days of fighting. . Subsequently, 10,800 UN peacekeepers from 40 countries were deployed to the border, including 600 Spaniards.

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In his second speech since the start of the war in Gaza, Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah assured this Saturday that Iran supports the “resistance against Israel in all aspects: military, economic and political.” “This has produced a change in the balance of regional deterrence,” he stated. Nasrallah has revealed that the militia party is attacking new targets in Israel, with an increase in the number of operations and the type of weapons in recent days, and promised that the Lebanon front “will remain active.”

“Hezbollah has to take into account what the rest of the Lebanese say, who know that their country, mired in a serious economic crisis, could be devastated if a war breaks out with Israel. Nobody wants it,” argues Kuperwasser, an expert on security issues at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. “First and foremost,” he concludes, “it seeks to distract Israel from its fundamental objective against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Other actors also operate on the northern front, such as the Palestinian militias exiled in Lebanon, affiliated with both Hamas and the secular nationalist party Fatah. From Syria, on the border with the Golan Heights (Syrian plateau occupied by Israel since 1967), the Al Quds Force, the expeditionary force of the Iranian Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, also intervenes. In the distance, Iraq's Shiite militias also harass the bases from which the United States protects its allies in the Middle East, such as Israel.

Southern Front (Red Sea)

“The axis of the resistance is blocking Israel,” Nasrallah also stated this Saturday, in reference to the attacks by the Yemeni Huthi rebels against the southern tip of Israeli territory. “Israel has been forced to divert part of its air defense system to the Eilat area.”

The Hezbollah leader cited the tourist city on the Gulf of Aqaba, where Israel has access to the Red Sea. The launches of suicide drones and cruise and ballistic missiles from Yemen have redoubled in recent weeks the threat of pro-Iranian forces against Israeli territory, precisely in an area where more than 60,000 civilians displaced by the war from border areas with the Gaza strip.

Israel has resorted for the first time to the new Arrow defensive system. It is the most advanced anti-rocket shield it has, after the Iron Dome system (for short-range rockets) and David's Honda (medium range). The Houthis have claimed responsibility for the attacks, some of which have hit nearby Egyptian territory. From the Red Sea, Saudi Arabia and the United States offer Israel an umbrella against attacks by Yemeni rebels. The American destroyer Meat and, Equipped with the Aegis anti-missile system, it has intercepted several of the missiles and drones launched by the Houthis.

“We are facing a new type of multifront war,” openly acknowledges former General Kuperwasser, who also served as director general of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs. “But not all fronts fight with the same intensity. The main one is in Gaza, and the others, before Hezbollah or the Huthi militia, are secondary. We are present on the rest of the fronts, and with more forces than we usually deploy in normal times,” he assures.

For this analyst, Iran's allies are exerting more pressure in recent weeks, in "a simultaneous operation by Shiite forces." Tehran supplies the weapons and finances related militias, he summarizes, which above all have a “deep ideological commitment against Israel.”

West Bank Front

Israel has deployed on the borders with Lebanon and Syria, or in the waters of the Red Sea. At the same time, it has intensified its military presence in areas theoretically controlled by the Palestinian National Authority, in the West Bank territory occupied for 56 years. “The military deployment is very strong in the north, around Jenin,” points out Kuperwasser. At least 175 Palestinians have lost their lives since October 7 at the hands of Israeli security forces or in attacks by radical settlers. Before the attack by Hamas militias that triggered the war, some 220 Palestinians had lost their lives since the beginning of this year, already the bloodiest in the West Bank since the Second Intifada (2000-2005).

“Hamas has great expectations of expanding its influence in the West Bank,” maintains the analyst from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in the West Bank, “and it also has them among the Arabs of Israel (20% of the population of Palestinian origin), but they remain now calm.”

Unlike what happened during the 2021 Gaza war, the outbreak of violence in mixed cities such as Lod or Haifa has not been reproduced so far in the current conflict. In East Jerusalem, also under occupation since 1967, there have been at least three episodes of stabbings against security forces, in which an agent has lost his life and the attackers have been shot dead. For Kuperwasser, the main enigma now is whether the Palestinian Authority, considered corrupt and weak in the face of Israel by its citizens, will be able to take charge of the areas of the West Bank under its control amid the current climate of violence and also assume control over the Gaza Strip in a future scenario without Hamas after the war.

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