On Saturday Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah gave his second speech since the Gaza War began, and there was little new that signaled he’s ready to escalate; instead, it was mostly a reiteration of ‘red lines’ and more threats of possible future action.
He did emphasize that the war against Israel will be long and that “victory” would “take years” to achieve, after Hezbollah has already lost at least 63 of its fighters. He did pledge that “This front will remain active,” in reference to southern Lebanon.
In response, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told his troops who are deployed to the northern border, “Hezbollah is dragging Lebanon into a war that might happen.” The two sides have exchanged daily rocket and mortar fire, but there’s yet to be the kind of all-out battle that many have been fearing.
“It is making mistakes and … those who will pay the price are first and foremost Lebanon’s citizens. What we are doing in Gaza we can do in Beirut,” Gallant said additionally.
But many Palestinians were hoping that Nasrallah would have declared war by now, and they are said to be “disappointed” this hasn’t happened. This is true also of Palestinians in refugee camps in Lebanon, some of which were interviewed by Al Jazeera:
His message fell short for many Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila, a Palestinian refugee camp that sprawls out across two Beirut neighborhoods.
“I wanted him to open up the war completely,” said Abdallah, 25, one of the Palestinians who gathered anxiously at a sidewalk cafe in Sabra and Shatila to watch the speech.
And others echoed the same:
“Hezbollah is fighting and they’re trying, but we want them to make more happen,” said Abdallah.
Some Palestinians in Lebanon believe that Hezbollah should take the fight to Israel first.
But feelings are much more mixed among Lebanese themselves, who remember much of the country being bombed in 2006, including Beirut’s international airport. But unlike the situation in 2006, Lebanon’s economy is currently in tailspin, amid other worsening societal woes.
There are fears that a full Hezbollah assault would drag the entire country into war with Israel, and it remains that the Lebanese Army doesn’t have much of an air force or proper anti-air defenses to speak of if Israel chooses to bomb the whole country “back to the stone age” – as Israeli leaders past and present have frequently vowed.
⚡️Israeli airstrike near the old road between the town of Qalaia and the Mahmoudiyah area, Lebanon pic.twitter.com/6SOS2fUXa0
— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) November 12, 2023
So far both Hezbollah and the IDF have exercised some degree of restraint in order to keep the exchanges of fire “limited” – despite casualties on either side the border. The IDF has meanwhile been forced to divert a significant amount of troops, tanks and other armor to the north in order to deal with the Hezbollah threat.
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