Middle East & Arab World Lebanon January 2024-

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Reform or Recklessness? Which Path for the Arab Region?
(Carnegie Endowment) …there is the third category of Arab states, namely failing and failed states. Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen are all prime examples of such states. Ironically, all of them have diverse societies ethnically and religiously. But instead of realizing that diversity is a source of strength, which should result in a healthy exchange of ideas and openness of minds, these countries have allowed diversity to divide their societies, with different communities fighting or in conflict with each other, a process that is often difficult to reverse.
Lebanon offers a particularly stark example. Even though it is not presently a victim of civil war (it has gone through several already) its dysfunctional political system, characterized by corruption across the political spectrum, has led the country to economic disaster. Yet no matter how bad the situation becomes, the political elite is unwilling to do anything, including agreeing to the implementation of a much-needed International Monetary Fund reform package, preferring to ruin the country rather than give up any of its privileges. (August 2023)

6 July
Israel and Hezbollah Lurch Closer to War – US and French diplomats are racing to avert a far broader conflict.
(Bloomberg) …even as Israel dispatches its intelligence chief to Qatar for talks after Hamas signaled broad agreement with a US plan for a cease-fire in Gaza. To the north, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that the US sees a grim “momentum” toward a wider war. Tensions rose as Israel killed a senior Hezbollah in an airstrike in southern Lebanon, and Hezbollah responded by launching more than 200 missiles and a swarm of drones at Israel.

17-26 June
Erdogan says Turkey stands with Lebanon as tensions rise with Israel
(Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey stood in solidarity with Lebanon amid growing tensions with Israel on Wednesday and called on regional countries to also support Beirut.
Cross-border strains between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah have been escalating in recent weeks, stoking fears of an all-out Israel-Hezbollah war. Shelling across Israel’s northern border has led to the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from areas on both sides of the frontier.
Hezbollah’s ‘axis of resistance’ allies waiting in reserve to fight Israel
Analysts believe that an expanded conflict could encourage foreign fighters to support Hezbollah and fight Israel.
(Al Jazeera) The most closely watched border in the Middle East lies between Israel and Lebanon, the site of eight months of tit-for-tat attacks and a possible Israeli land assault on its northern neighbour.
Israeli officials have repeatedly threatened to intensify attacks, saying they’re necessary to defeat Hezbollah and return 90,000 Israelis evacuated from their homes in the north since fighting started in early October.
But as Israel’s rhetoric escalates, Lebanon’s Hezbollah has responded with defiance, warning that such a conflict would not only impact Israel more than it thinks, but that it would be felt regionally.
Backing Hezbollah up regionally, analysts say, is the so-called “axis of resistance”, a regional network of armed groups, backed by Iran, who have started to make their presence known since Israel launched its brutal war on Gaza.
Netanyahu says Israel is winding down its Gaza operations. But he warns a Lebanon war could be next
(AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the current phase of fighting against Hamas in Gaza is winding down, setting the stage for Israel to send more troops to its northern border to confront the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
The comments threatened to further heighten the tensions between Israel and Hezbollah at a time when they appear to be moving closer to war. Netanyahu also signaled that there is no end in sight for the grinding war in Gaza.
The Israeli leader said in a lengthy TV interview that while the army is close to completing its current ground offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, that would not mean the war against Hamas is over. But he said fewer troops would be needed in Gaza, freeing up forces to battle Hezbollah.
‘Intense phase of war with Hamas about to end,’ focus to shift to Lebanon border, Netanyahu says
(CNN) Netanyahu also told Channel 14 Television that “after the end of the intense phase, we will have the possibility to shift some of the power north, and we will do it.”
“First of all, for protection purposes, and secondly, to bring our residents home as well. If we can do it politically, that would be great. If not, we will do it in another way, but we will bring everyone back home – all the residents of the north and the south,” he added.
Hezbollah, an Iran-backed Islamist movement with one of the most powerful paramilitary forces in the Middle East, has been carrying out deadly attacks from southern Lebanon targeting areas in northern Israel since October 8, the day after the Hamas attacks on Israel.
Israel has responded to Hezbollah’s attacks with strikes that have killed Hezbollah militants, among them senior commanders.
Tens of thousands of Israelis have been evacuated from their homes in northern Israel due to ongoing conflict. Villages across southern Lebanon have also emptied.
The increase in cross-border attacks in recent weeks has intensified concerns about the possible outbreak of another full-fledged conflict in the Middle East.
US officials have serious concerns that in the event of a full-blown war between Israel and Hezbollah, as the Iran-backed militant group could overwhelm Israel’s air defenses in the north — including the much-vaunted Iron Dome air defense system.

Israel and Hizbollah’s dangerous slide towards all-out war
A week of belligerent rhetoric underscores the threat of escalation
(FT editorial board) After months of cross-border clashes between Hizbollah and Israel, the rhetoric between the two foes has escalated to worrying new levels. Israel says it has approved “operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon”; Hizbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group, says it would fight “without rules” and “without limits”. The threats may be bluster, but they raise the risk of a miscalculation that could lead to all-out war. The reckless baiting should stop.
The sabre-rattling underlines the dangerous game both sides have been playing for months. Clashes first erupted after Hamas’s October 7 attack and Israel’s retaliatory offensive in Gaza. Hizbollah launched rockets at Israel the following day. The Lebanese group and Israel have since traded fire with increasing ferocity, striking ever deeper into each other’s territory and pushing the boundaries of traditional red lines.
At any other time, this would already have been deemed a full-blown conflict. Israeli strikes have killed more than 300 Hizbollah fighters and dozens of civilians. Hizbollah’s attacks have killed more than two dozen soldiers and civilians. Tens of thousands have been displaced on both sides.

A Biden adviser visits Israel as the military warns of a ‘wider escalation’ with Hezbollah
A White House adviser met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Monday as the Israeli military warned that the Lebanese militia Hezbollah was risking a wider confrontation with its cross-border strikes against Israel.
The adviser, Amos Hochstein, who has overseen previous talks between Israel and Lebanon, was meeting with Israeli leaders amid swelling concerns that the confrontation with Hezbollah, a powerful militia and Lebanese political faction backed by Iran, could grow into all-out war. Several Israeli news outlets reported that Mr. Hochstein was holding talks aimed at preventing a further escalation.

11-12 June
Hezbollah vows further vengeance on Israel after strike kills commander
The waves of rockets are a dramatic escalation in the simmering border crisis even as negotiations over a Gaza cease-fire reach a delicate moment.
(WaPo) At the funeral, Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine vowed to increase operations “in intensity, strength, quantity and quality” in retaliation. The volume of the barrage, which the Israel Defense Forces said involved at least two waves of some 170 projectiles, represented a major escalation in the simmering battle on Israel’s northern border that is constantly threatening to explode into all-out war.
The Israeli strike Tuesday on the southern Lebanese town of Jwaya killed Talib Abdallah, along with three other Hezbollah members, the group announced. …
The Israeli military confirmed Abdallah’s killing in a Telegram post Wednesday, describing him as “one of Hezbollah’s most senior commanders in southern Lebanon” and saying he was responsible for planning and carrying out “a large number” of attacks against Israeli civilians.
On the Israel-Lebanon border, a war is unfolding in slow motion
Israel is under growing domestic pressure to halt Hezbollah rocket fire and allow more than 60,000 displaced civilians to return to their homes in the north.

14-15 February
Israeli airstrikes killed 10 Lebanese civilians in a single day. Hezbollah has vowed to retaliate
(AP) — The civilian death toll from two Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon has risen to 10, Lebanese state media reported Thursday, making the previous day the deadliest in more than four months of cross-border exchanges.
Israel’s military said it killed a senior commander with the militant Hezbollah group’s elite Radwan Force, Ali Dibs, who it says played a role in an attack inside Israel last year that unnerved Israelis, as well as other attacks directed at Israel over the past four months. It said Dibs was killed Wednesday along with his deputy Hassan Ibrahim Issa, as well as another Hezbollah operative, in a strike in the southern city of Nabatiyeh.
A look at the arsenals of Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia as cross-border strikes escalate
(AP) — The slow-simmering cross-border conflict between Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group and Israeli forces escalated Wednesday, reviving fears that the daily clashes could expand into an all-out war.
A rocket fired from Lebanon struck the northern Israeli town of Safed, killing a 20-year-old female soldier and wounding at least eight people.
Israel responded with airstrikes that killed at least 10 people in southern Lebanon, including a Syrian woman, her two children, four members of another family and three Hezbollah fighters. At least nine people were wounded.
9 January
Israel-Hamas War: Hezbollah Says a Commander Was Killed in a Strike in Lebanon
A Lebanese security official said the commander was part of Hezbollah’s Radwan unit, which Israel says aims to infiltrate its northern border.
The death of a Hezbollah commander stokes fears of a widening war.

6-7 January
Israel’s talk of expanding war to Lebanon alarms U.S.
An American intelligence assessment found that it would be difficult for Israel to succeed in a war against Hezbollah amid ongoing fighting in Gaza
(WaPo) President Biden has dispatched his top aides to the Middle East with a critical objective: Prevent a full-blown war from erupting between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
Israel has made clear it views as untenable the regular exchange of fire between its forces and Hezbollah along the border and may soon launch a major military operation in Lebanon.
Israel says Hezbollah struck sensitive air traffic base in the north and warns of ‘another war’
(AP) — Hezbollah has struck an air traffic control base in northern Israel, the Israeli military said Sunday, and warned of “another war” with the Iran-backed militant group
Israel, Hezbollah trade fire across Lebanon border amid alarm over Gaza war spillover
(Reuters) – Air raid sirens sounded across northern Israel on Saturday as Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah group said it fired rockets at Israel, and Israel said it struck a “terrorist cell” in retaliation, as top U.S. and EU diplomats visited the region seeking to keep the war from spreading.

2-3 January
Saleh al-Arouri: Hamas leader’s death ‘won’t go unpunished’, says Hezbollah chief
(BBC) Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, says the killing of Hamas’s powerful deputy leader will “not go unpunished”.
Saleh al-Arouri died in a drone attack in Beirut on Tuesday. Israel has not confirmed it was responsible.
Mr Nasrallah described Arouri’s death as a “major, dangerous crime about which we cannot be silent”.
He added that if Israel wages war on Lebanon “there will be no ceilings, no rules” to Hezbollah’s response.
Mossad chief says Israel is committed to finding and killing all Hamas leaders
Comments by David Barnea follow assassination of Hamas deputy political chief Saleh al-Arouri in Lebanon
Israel has not formally accepted responsibility for the strike in a southern Beirut suburb that killed Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy political chief of Hamas.
Senior Hamas figure Saleh al-Arouri killed in Lebanon
Death of Arouri in Israeli drone strike on Beirut suburb threatens significant escalation of war in region

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