Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed armed group based in Lebanon, attacked an Israeli army base on the border between Southern Lebanon and Israel, firing anti-tank missiles at an army base and a military ambulance, reports CNN. Israel responded immediately with heavy shelling and strikes in the area.
The attack was the first since Israel and Hezbollah launched a 33-day long war back in 2006, resulting in 1,200 Lebanese deaths, mostly civilians, and 160 Israeli deaths, mostly soldiers. For the past 13 years, both sides have refrained from military action against one another. That time, however, was not without tension or suspicion. According to the Middle East Eye, Israel uses drones to spy on Hezbollah forces and has accused them of trying to dig tunnels into northern Israel.
The strikes signal an end to the unstable peace between Israel and Hezbollah. Though Hezbollah struck first, the group maintains that it was in self-protection and retaliation for a previous Israeli drone strike. It emphasized that its actions were not intended to start a war, with deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem stating in a TV interview, “I rule out that the atmosphere is one of war – it is one of a response to an attack,” reports Radio Farda. Israel denied this, saying that the incident was not a drone strike, but rather a drone having a mechanical malfunction and falling out of the sky.
Tensions between the two groups go back to the early 1980s when Israel invaded and occupied southern Lebanon. Frustrated with the conditions they were under, Lebanese Shi’ite clerics formed Hezbollah to force Israel out of Southern Lebanon. With the 1979 Shi’ite revolution in Iran, Hezbollah gained much of its logistical support from Iran, allowing them to stage numerous guerrilla attacks against Israeli forces throughout the 1980s.
Repercussions of this attack have the potential to spiral out of control very quickly, resulting in the international community calling for peace between the two groups, says the Wall Street Journal. The United Nations has called for “maximum restraint” and both France and the United States are attempting to do so as well. The U.S. has warned against the “destabilizing effect” of proxy groups within the region.
The situation has the potential to spark another war between Israel and Lebanon. The Guardian says that amid growing tensions between Israel and Iran, Israel has stepped up attacks in Syria on Iranian proxies. It claims that this is to counter Iranian influence in the region and hamper its ability to send supplies to Hezbollah.
Growing tensions between Israel and its enemies, in addition to clashes in Lebanon, have only made the situation worse. While Israel chose not to comment on the attacks, Lebanese Prime Minister Michel Aoun stated to the U.N. Security Council that Lebanon hopes to avoid a “dangerous escalation” but only if the international community disavows Israel’s “blatant violation.”