Israel Edges Closer to Full-Scale War with Hezbollah

Israel has edged closer to an all-out war with the Lebanese Hezbollah movement amid a worsening round of hostilities playing out as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is already engaged in its most intensive conflict to date in the Gaza Strip, an IDF official has said.

IDF spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus told reporters Monday that Hezbollah has fired “more than 1,000 different types of ammunition, rockets, missiles, drones, mortars and others toward Israel” since October 8, the day after the Palestinian Hamas movement led an unprecedented surprise attack against Israel from Gaza.

Conricus warned that “Hezbollah, who as everybody knows is a proxy of Iran, is dangerously dragging Lebanon into an unnecessary war that could have potential devastating consequences for the state of Lebanon and for the people of Lebanon.

“And it is a war that I think neither Lebanon nor Israel deserves to be fighting.”

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Smoke billows following Israeli bombardment around the southern Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab on December 18. It comes amid increasing cross-border tensions.

Conricus expressed Israel’s desire for a diplomatic solution to disarm the threat posed by Hezbollah to Israeli troops and civilians along the northern border but said the IDF “will continue making the necessary preparations to remove by the means that we have available as a military the threat from our border.”

Responding to Newsweek‘s question about how close Israel was to another full-scale war in Lebanon, Conricus said that, looking at the scope of the ongoing attacks, “then by any means we could have been at war with Hezbollah long, long ago, based solely on their actions, their violation of Israeli sovereignty and the casualties that they have caused against Israel.”

“We are closer today to war than we were yesterday,” Conricus said. “And the directive to the IDF is of course to enhance readiness to prepare and to be capable of defending Israeli civilians.”

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant too stated separately on Monday that if “restoring security in the area” could “not be implemented diplomatically, then we will not hesitate to act.”

Newsweek has reached out to Hezbollah and the Lebanese Armed Forces for comment.

The group has regularly announced strikes against Israeli positions “in support of our steadfast Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and in support of their valiant and honorable resistance.”

The latest round of attacks on Monday notably included claims of the targeting of two Iron Dome anti-rocket batteries in the northern Israeli kibbutz of Kabri.

The IDF, for its part, announced a number of launches against Israel from southern Lebanon. Israeli forces responded by conducting strikes with artillery and fighter jets against Hezbollah sites, according to an IDF report.

The tempo of attacks along the tense boundary between Israel and Lebanon has reached levels not seen since the IDF and Hezbollah fought their second and last major war in 2006.

As the IDF sets out to defeat Hamas in Gaza, an IDF official recently told Newsweek that Israel would also not tolerate a return to the pre-October 7th situation on the northern front, a vow reiterated by Conricus on Monday. Warnings have also been issued to Iran, which has backed Hezbollah since its establishment in opposition to Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

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A picture published on December 18 by Hezbollah appears to show a 9M14 Malyutka anti-tank guided missile site in southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah Media Relations

In an interview with Newsweek published Friday, Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Amir Saeid Iravani stated that “Israel lacks the capacity to undertake invasions without the unequivocal backing of the United States.”

“As the Gaza conflict persists, the associated cost of this support for the United States is exponentially escalating,” Iravani said at the time. “There arises a critical juncture where America must consider conditioning and constraining this support or risk falling prey to the thwarted ambitions of Israel’s leadership.”

Iravani said that “Iran remains resolute in its stance of refraining from initiating a war with any country,” but would be ready to fight one if necessary.

“Essentially, a preemptive war strategy holds no position within Iran’s defense doctrine,” Iravani said. “However, the country maintains its highest state of preparedness to respond to any perceived threats and vigorously defend itself, its populace, and its interests.”

Hezbollah officials have also called out the U.S., with Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah warning during his first speech after the beginning of the war that U.S. forces in the region would also be targeted if they intervened. The Hezbollah leader said in his November 3 address that the U.S. would suffer similar setbacks as occurred in past operations in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan if it got further involved in the conflict.

On Monday, Hezbollah member of Lebanon’s parliament Ibrahim al-Moussawi also noted the additional U.S. military presence in the region in support of Israel but argued that the U.S. and other Western countries were facing a decline in power and influence amid the war in Gaza.

“We are facing deep and major transformations, the mask has fallen from Western regimes and the peoples of the world have a common sense that had long been distorted,” Moussawi said, “so we see millions of people in the streets of America and Western countries walking in their streets demanding an end to the aggression on Gaza.”

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Mourners march with the bodies of three fighters of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement reportedly killed in an Israeli raid in Quneitra in southwestern Syria along the Israel-occupied Golan Heights, during the funeral in Beirut’s southern suburb on December 9. The IDF has conducted strikes in both Lebanon and Syria amid rocket attacks coming from across both northern borders.

More than 80,000 civilians have been evacuated from northern Israel in response to Hezbollah cross-border attacks, according to the IDF. U.N. officials estimate that more than 64,000 people have been displaced from southern Lebanon since the war in Gaza began.

The IDF has also accused Hezbollah of conducting attacks near positions held by the Lebanese Armed Forces and U.N. Peacekeeping Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Last week, UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti told Newsweek that peacekeepers “are deeply concerned by the escalation of violence and rhetoric along the Blue Line” and remained in constant contact with authorities in Lebanon and Israel to try to reduce the temperature, and we continue to urge all parties involved to stop their fire and work toward a political solution.”

While Tenenti said conflict has so far largely remained limited to the Blue Line boundary area, he warned that “the continued active exchanges of fire open the very real possibility that a miscalculation could occur” and said “that’s a real concern for us and why it’s important to stop the exchange of fire now.”

Speaking during a White House press call on Monday, National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby said U.S. officials were closely watching the situation on the Israel-Lebanon border and were “in active discussions” with Israeli counterparts on the matter.

Kirby said that the U.S. did not “want to see a full-on conflict between Hezbollah and Israel.”

“The continued attacks across that border are of concern to us,” Kirby said. “We don’t want to see the conflict widen. We don’t want to see a northern front opened up.”

White House Correspondent Daniel Bush contributed reporting to this story.