The Guardian • Issue #2103

Israel threatens war with Lebanon

Map of Lebanon

Graphic: Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

For eight months the world has watched and been horrified at Israel’s barbaric assault on Gaza. For eight months there has been a less well-reported, low-level assault against southern Lebanon, which shares a border with Israel. Israel has used white phosphorous munitions, bombed and shelled villages and has threatened to raze Beirut. It has now let the world know that it is ready to act on those threats.

Hundreds of Lebanese have been killed. Hezbollah fighters have responded in a tit-for-tat cross border conflict as Hezbollah has joined in solidarity with the people of Palestine. Soon after the invasion of Gaza began, Netanyahu pledged that if Hezbollah “started” an all-out war, Beirut would be “turned into Gaza.” Things have taken a decided turn for the worse as Israel prepares for a possible war, in the name of ensuring security for its people.

Hezbollah’s deputy leader, Sheikh Naim Qassem has commented that they had no intention of widening the conflict, but that if presented with continued aggression from Israel, Hezbollah was ready to respond. Hezbollah is well equipped and armed. The potential for such a war to develop is very real.

The border shelling and the missile attacks have become more intense. Israel appears more than willing to expand this into a much broader conflict. The USA has warned Netanyahu against any invasion of Lebanese territory, but everyone remember Biden’s retreats on his other “red lines.”

Netanyahu and his war cabinet have drawn up plans for just such an escalation. Just days ago, he visited the border with Lebanon and remarked that “we are prepared for a very intense operation in the north. One way or another, we will restore security.” Israeli military chief of staff, Herzl Halevi, let it be known that the army was ready “to move to an offensive.” All in the name of security.

The Israeli leadership’s version of security can be seen from the way it has sought to eliminate the Palestinian people in Gaza.

An Israeli spokesperson defended the potential escalation into Lebanon, claiming that Israel was committed to ensuring the safety of Israelis living near the border. He bluntly stated that “it is up to Hezbollah to decide if this can be accomplished by diplomatic means or by force. We are defending this country and no one should be surprised by our response.”

Security and safety for the Lebanese, as far as Israel is concerned, doesn’t matter. Over 90,000 Lebanese have already been displaced due to air strikes and shelling by the Israeli military.

Security for Israel, in the words of Likud education minister Yoav Kisch, means that Israel “must go to war to drive Hezbollah … beyond the Litani.” The Litani river meets the Mediterranean Sea near the Lebanese city of Tyre. It is 19 kilometres from the border.

Benny Gantz, a war cabinet member who has since resigned is often portrayed as a better option than Netanyahu to lead Israel. He also visited the northern border with Lebanon. His view is that the issue would have to be dealt with quickly, by force if necessary.

Israeli politics has reached such a state that Netanyahu is now being presented as not being aggressive enough.

Former Prime Minister and now opposition leader Yair Lapid has also urged more “Israeli deterrence.”

Lapid has much in common with Netanyahu. Both are seeking to gain political mileage out of potentially ‘burning’ the entire region. Both seem to accept the logic of destruction to maintain power. Neither turns a hair at the use of white phosphorous against Lebanese residential areas.

Israel has used white phosphorous munitions in strikes against Lebanon on 17 occasions since October. These include a number of strikes over populated areas, illegal under international law.

Ramzi Kaiss, a researcher with Human Rights Watch stated that “Israel’s use of airburst white phosphorus munitions in populated areas indiscriminately harms civilians and has led many to leave their homes.”

Lebanon’s Ministry of Public Health has stated that exposure to white phosphorus has injured at least 173 people. Human Rights Watch has recommended that Lebanon promptly file a declaration with the International Criminal Court (ICC), “enabling the investigation and prosecution of grave international crimes … on Lebanese territory since October 2023.”

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