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Israel Military Regime Is Escalating The War To Target Friends of Hamas


By Girish Linganna

When drone-fired missiles hit an apartment in south Beirut, killing a prominent militant leader and his associates, it signalled a new direction in Israel's conflict with Hamas.

For three months, Israel has conducted an extensive military campaign in Gaza, destroying a large portion of the area and causing over 22,000 casualties in an effort to eliminate the militants responsible for the October 7 attack on Israel. Until now, Israel had not pursued one of its declared objectives: targeting Hamas leaders regardless of their location.

As the conflict moves into its fourth month, Israel seems to have acted on that promise, potentially escalating the war along its Lebanon border, while simultaneously starting to reduce its troop presence in Gaza for the first time.

Military officials have stated that due to the weakening of Hamas in the north, they can now partially withdraw their forces, allowing many reservists to go home and resume their . Additionally, the U.S. has been urging Israel to scale back its military actions, with President Biden criticizing the intense bombings and highlighting the need to reduce civilian casualties.

Recent developments are happening as there's increasing worry about the economic impact of the war in Israel and a resurgence of protests and political maneuvering. Although most experts don't foresee a quick end to the conflict in Gaza, they are observing changes in the situation.

Chuck Freilich, a former deputy security adviser for Israel, mentioned to Washington Post ,that they are entering Stage 3. This stage comes after the initial reaction to the October attacks and the prolonged air and ground conflict. He believes this phase aligns more closely with what the U.S. has been suggesting from the start.

For months, Israel's military has expressed its preparedness for a conflict on two fronts. They have positioned soldiers and tanks near the Lebanese border and moved out around 70,000 people. There have been regular skirmishes between Israel Defense Forces and Hezbollah, the militant group in Lebanon aligned with Iran. However, the exchange of strikes had not reached Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon ,until now.

Israel has not confirmed or denied its involvement in the killing of Saleh Arouri, a Hamas official living in exile who had connections with Iran and Hezbollah. However, it is known that he was a target of interest for them.

Israel reports having eliminated several Hamas commanders and officials within Gaza. However, Yehiya Sinwar, who is believed to have orchestrated the Oct. 7 attacks, along with other high-ranking leaders, remains at large. Yehiya Sinwar is known as a key leader in Hamas, an organization recognized as a terrorist group by many countries, including the United States and the European Union.

On Wednesday, officials from Lebanon and other countries worked quickly to prevent Hezbollah from retaliating. Until now, Hezbollah has not fully joined the conflict despite requests from Hamas. Israeli officials, who asked to remain anonymous as they weren't authorized to speak publicly, expressed hope that Hezbollah's leader, Hasan Nasrallah, would opt for restraint, especially since none of his officers were harmed in the recent attack.

One Israeli official mentioned, “We hope the carrier is sufficient,” referring to the U.S. carrier group stationed in the eastern Mediterranean region, indicating their reliance on it for support or deterrence.

In a speech on Wednesday, Nasrallah issued a warning about retaliation and consequences but did not provide much detail on how his forces might react.

People living in Haifa, a northern Israeli port city, were told to prepare for taking shelter in case of an attack. Military experts believe that reducing the number of troops in Gaza could lead to more resources being allocated towards this effort.

On Tuesday in Eilon, a kibbutz, a farming community in Israel, located just a mile south of the Lebanese border, Israeli forces frequently fired artillery. According to the Israeli Defense Forces, they were aiming at “terrorist targets.” Meanwhile, Hezbollah's antitank missiles were either intercepted or landed in the nearby deserted villages.

In the northern region, local security teams are preparing for what they think might be an upcoming war. Dotan Razili, who lives in Eilon and is also a reservist soldier, mentioned that because people have been evacuated, the Israeli Defense Forces can now move and operate without restrictions, even using agricultural fields to launch attacks. He expressed that they are being pulled into a war they did not seek.

The killing in Lebanon was largely praised in Israel, but some people concerned about the roughly 133 Israelis captured in Gaza expressed fear that this incident might disrupt negotiations for another exchange of prisoners.

Carmit Palti-Katzir, whose brother Elad is a hostage, expressed in an Israeli radio interview that she believes the [government] is acting out of a desire for revenge. She emphasized the importance of considering the lives at stake, saying, “But I'm saying, for God's sake, there are living people there.”

Last week, the Israeli Defense Forces announced they were withdrawing up to five brigades from northern Gaza. This suggests a change in strategy from extensive bombing to more focused attacks by soldiers positioned outside the area. However, Israeli authorities have repeatedly mentioned that the conflict might go on for several more months.

On Wednesday, in the southern city of Khan Younis in Gaza, the noise of bombings and shelling was constant. People there told The Washington Post that the fighting was still very intense. Hussam Kurdieh, a person who had to leave his home in Gaza City and is now taking refuge at Nasser, mentioned that ambulances were continuously moving, carrying those who were killed or injured throughout the day.

Hussam Kurdieh said, “People here are used to the terrible sight of bombings. But the real daily challenge is finding food, water, and other basic needs.”

In Israel, the intensity of the war seems to have lessened, allowing people to engage in wider political discussions. Recently, Israel's High Court overturned a decision by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition that would have weakened the court's ability to review judicial matters. This decision was seen as a victory for democracy by Netanyahu's critics.

The anti-government protests that shook the nation for much of the previous year, but paused after October 7, have started up again.

On Saturday, people gathered in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, calling for new elections and expressing frustration with Netanyahu. Many hold him responsible for not stopping the Hamas attacks and his popularity has dropped significantly in recent polls.

Gayil Talshir, a political scientist at Hebrew University, noted, “We're entering a new stage with more people protesting again. Now, those leading the protests include families of hostages, families of soldiers who died, and reservists.”

Differences are becoming more apparent in the emergency war cabinet, where Prime Minister Netanyahu and his political opponent, former IDF chief Benny Gantz, along with others, share power. Gantz and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant have started skipping some news conferences with Netanyahu. They seem more receptive to President Biden's suggestions for a postwar government in Gaza involving the Palestinian Authority. This idea, however, has been rejected by Netanyahu and the more hardline members of his coalition.

Gantz, who is currently gaining popularity, has stated that political matters and inquiries into the October 7th failures should be delayed until the war situation calms down. Now that some soldiers are being pulled back from Gaza, political analysts are keenly observing for any indication that he might take some significant action.

Gantz has the potential to initiate new elections if he convinces five members of the coalition, who have previously criticized Netanyahu, to support a vote of no-confidence.

Talshir mentioned, “As soon as Gantz thinks he can exit the war cabinet, things will start to change quickly. And now, with Gaza becoming more stable, that seems increasingly likely.”She also added, “However, if a new conflict with Hezbollah emerges, the situation could shift once more.” (IPA Service)


(The author is a , Aerospace & Political Analyst based in Bengaluru.)




The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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