The United Nations has cautioned against the escalation of this conflict by calling for both sides to exercise maximum restraint.
As Israel launched a number of airstrikes along the Lebanese-Syrian border on Sunday (25 August) morning, President of Lebanon Michel Aoun labelled the Israeli provocation as a ‘declaration of war.’ With the Israeli media identifying the objective behind this attack as targeting a group led by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a preventive measure against an impending ‘kamikaze-style’ armed drone attack on Northern Israel, these airstrikes were also said to have resulted in the death of two Hezbollah operatives: Hassan Yousef Zabeeb and Yasser Ahmad Daher. However, it must be noted that the airstrikes were not simply an isolated incident – they were followed by an Israeli drone attack on Beirut. It was reported that alleged Israeli drones had also crashed in Lebanon’s capital, suburban city, eliciting a strongly-worded condemnation from the Lebanese government and from Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s incumbent Secretary General. ‘I say to the Israeli army on the border from tonight, stand guard. Wait for us one, two, three, four days,’ exclaimed Hassan Nasrallah to his supporters during a rare public appearance on Sunday.
‘What happened in Syria and Lebanon last night is very, very dangerous.’ He further added that Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu ‘would be mistaken if he thinks that this issue can go unnoticed. The time at which Israeli war jets used to strike targets in Lebanon while the usurping entity in Palestine kept safe has ended… Be prepared and wait for us.’ President Aoun too, accused Israel of violating Lebanon’s sovereignty during his meeting with the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis. ‘What happened was similar to a declaration of war which allows us to resort to our right to defending our sovereignty,’ the Lebanese president’s office quoted him as saying on Twitter, on Monday. He went on to say that ‘We are a people seeking peace, not war, and we don’t accept anyone threatening us in any war.’
Hassan Nasrallah pointed out that this was the first Israeli attack against Lebanon’s sovereignty since the 2006 Lebanon War. The war, which killed approximately 1200 in Lebanon and 160 in Israel, is occasionally referred to as an Israel-Hezbollah war or Israel-Iran war by proxy due to Iran’s covert and overt involvement in the conflict and has been scrutinized from an array of perspectives. Joseph Hincks identified the resurfacing of tensions as a ‘protracted shadow war between Israel and Iran’ and believes that the overseas military operations Israel is undertaking (from Syria to Lebanon and to Iraq) may give rise to retaliatory activity from Iranian-backed militant groups.
Interestingly, he points towards the growing influence of Iran in the Middle East region and the ambiguity behind the Islamic Republic’s financial and logistical support for militant groups against Israel. The timing, however, is subject to contention as political and defence analysts alike remain puzzled over the true causes behind the recent escalations. Hincks also includes the ‘potential rapprochement’ between Iran and the United States of America with regard to the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France as somewhat worrying for Israel if the discussions give way to a more relaxed stance from the USA against Iran.
The United Nations has cautioned against the escalation of this conflict by calling for both sides to exercise maximum restraint. What complicates matters further is the mystery enshrouded in the attacks as Israel broke from quintessential protocol that advocates an air of secrecy, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted shortly after the attacks: ‘Iran has no immunity anywhere. Our forces operate in every sector against the Iranian aggression.’ This puzzling response which categorically names Iran generated a string of questions with regard to all the international actors involved in this ever-complex conflict.
As sparse as the details may be, tensions remain alarming and the region remains engulfed in volatility over the possibility of retaliation by the Lebanese government and Hezbollah, by Iran and its supporting-militias, over Israel’s ramping up of military operations against who it deems are ‘hostile’ against it, and the international community’s take on the resurfacing of the conflict. One thing can be confirmed and that is that the conflicts in the Middle East inevitably spill over and that all the international (or domestic) actors involved remain alert over any the possibility of anymore impending attacks. Time will tell, as the international community still awaits the details and seeks to make sense of the ever-growing complexity of the conflict.
Ana Tawfiq Husain is a student at Habib University.