The perspective of a full-scale war between Israel and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah It terrorizes residents on both sides of the border, but some see it as an inevitable consequence of Israel's ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza.
such a war could be the most destructive that either party has ever experienced.
Israel and Hezbollah have drawn lessons from their last war, that of 2006, a month long conflict which ended in a tie. They have also had four months to prepare for another war, even as the United States tries to avoid an escalation of the conflict.
Below we present an overview of the preparation of each side, how war could develop and what is being done to prevent it.
What happened in 2006?
The 2006 war, six years after Israeli forces withdrew from southern Lebanon, broke out after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed several more in a cross-border raid.
Israel launched a large-scale air and ground offensive and imposed a blockade aimed at freeing hostages and destroying Hezbollah's military capabilities. mission that ultimately failed.
Israeli bombing devastated large areas of southern Lebanon and the southern suburbs of Beirut. Hezbollah fired thousands of unguided rockets at communities in northern Israel.
The conflict killed about 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
A United Nations resolution that ended the war called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon and a demilitarized zone on the Lebanese side of the border.
Despite the deployment of UN peacekeepers, Hezbollah continues to operate in the border area, while Lebanon says Israel regularly violates its airspace and continues to occupy areas of Lebanese land.
How likely is war?
“A war between Israel and Hezbollah it would be a total disaster“UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned last month, amid a wave of diplomatic negotiations between the United States and Europe.
Hezbollah, backed by Iran, appeared to have been caught off guard by Hamas's Oct. 7 attack on Israel, a regional ally. Since then, Hezbollah and Israel have exchanged daily cross-border attacks that gradually escalate. Israel also carried out targeted assassinations of Hezbollah and Hamas figures in Lebanon.
More than 200 people, mostly Hezbollah fighters but also more than 20 civilians, have been killed on the Lebanese side and 18 on the Israeli side.
UN soldiers guard the border between Israel and Lebanon. Photo: AP
Tens of thousands have been displaced on both sides. There are no immediate prospects for his return.
Israeli political and military leaders have warned Hezbollah that war is increasingly likely unless the militants withdraw from the border.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has not threatened to start a war, but warned of a “no-holds-barred” fight if Israel does so. Hezbollah says it will not accept a ceasefire on the Israel-Lebanon border before there is one in Gaza and has rejected a U.S. proposal to move its forces several kilometers from the border, according to Lebanese officials.
Despite these speeches, neither side seems to want warsaid Andrea Tenenti, spokesperson for the UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon. However, “a miscalculation could trigger a broader conflict thatthat would be very difficult to control“, he claimed.
How prepared are they?
Both Hezbollah and the Israeli army have expanded their capabilities since 2006, but both countries are also more fragile.
In Lebanon, four years of economic crisis They have affected public institutions, including the military and the electrical grid, and weakened the health system. The country is home to more than 1 million Syrian refugees.
Lebanon adopted an emergency plan for a war scenario in late October. It projected the forced displacement of 1 million Lebanese for 45 days.
Smoke in a village in southern Lebanese after an Israeli bombardment. Photo: Rabih DAHER / AFP
Some 87,000 Lebanese are displaced from the border area. While the government relies on international organizations to fund the response, many groups working in Lebanon are unable to maintain existing programs.
The U.N. refugee agency has provided supplies to collective shelters and given emergency money to about 400 families in southern Lebanon, spokeswoman Lisa Abou Khaled said. The agency does not have funds to support large numbers of displaced people in the event of war, she said.
The aid group Doctors Without Borders said it had stored about 10 tons of medical supplies and fuel for hospital generators in areas most likely to be affected by increasing conflict, in anticipation of a lockdown.
Israel suffers economic and social tensions due to the war in Gaza, which is expected to It will cost more than $50 billion. or about 10 percent of national economic activity until the end of 2024, according to the Bank of Israel. Costs would increase dramatically if there was a war with Lebanon.
“No one wants this war, nor does anyone wish it on anyone,” said Tal Beeri of the Alma Research and Education Center, a think tank focused on northern Israel's security. But he said he believes an armed conflict between Israel and Hezbollah is inevitable, given that diplomatic solutions seem unlikely and would only allow Hezbollah's strategic threats to increase.
Israeli aerial bombardment in southern Lebanon. Photo: AP
Israel has evacuated 60,000 residents from the cities closest to the borderwhere there is no warning time for rocket launches due to the proximity of Hezbollah squads
In a war, it would make no sense to carry out more evacuations, since the militia's rockets and missiles They can reach all of Israel.
After the October 7 attack, the war in Gaza had widespread domestic support, although there is now a growing debate about its orientation. About half of Israelis would support war with Hezbollah as a last resort to restore border security, according to a recent poll by the Israel Democracy Institute think tank.
In Lebanon, some criticize Hezbollah for exposing the country to another potentially devastating war. Others support the group's limited entry into the conflict and believe Hezbollah's arsenal will deter Israel from escalation.
How would the war develop?
A full scale war probably would extend to multiple frontsintensifying the participation of Iranian delegates from Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and perhaps even would involve Iran itself.
It could also drag down the United States, Israel's closest ally, to be more engaged in the conflict. The United States has already sent additional warships to the region.
A UN soldier enters a shelter at a base in a Lebanese village on the border with Israel. Photo: AP
Hezbollah It has between 150,000 and 200,000 rockets and missiles of varying scope, said Orna Mizrahi of the Israeli think tank Institute for National Security Studies. This arsenal is at least five times larger than Hamas's and much more precise, she said.
The militia's guided projectiles could hit water, electricity or communications facilities and densely populated residential areas.
In Lebanon, airstrikes would likely wreak havoc on infrastructure and potentially They would kill thousands of people.
Netanyahu has threatened with “turning Beirut into Gaza”, where Israel's air and ground incursion has caused widespread destruction and killed more than 26,000 people, according to Hamas-controlled Gaza's Health Ministry.
Israel is much more protectedcon various air defense systems, such as Iron Dome, which intercepts rockets with a success rate of approximately 90%. But it can be overwhelmed if a massive barrage of rockets is launched.
About 40% of Israel's population lives in newer houses with fortified secure private rooms with explosion protection to resist rocket attacks. Israel too It has a network of air raid shelters, but a 2020 government report says about a third of Israelis do not have easy access to them.
Lebanon does not have such a networkand the shelters would be of little use against the “bunker buster” bombs Israel has dropped on Gaza.
Hezbollah has limited air defenses, while those of the Lebanese army are outdated and insufficient due to budget shortfalls, said Dina Arakji of UK-based risk consultancy Control Risks.
The Lebanese army has remained on the sidelines for the past four months. In 2006, it entered combat in a limited capacity, but it is unclear how it would react in the event of a new war between Israel and Hezbollah.
Translation: Elisa Carnelli