Sunday, October 15, 2023
Israel's Defence Minister Yoav Gallant has said that Israel has "no interest in war" on its northern front and will prefer to maintain the current situation along the border with Lebanon.
This statement comes on Sunday in response to recent sporadic cross-border incidents between Israel and Lebanon, raising concerns about the potential for broader conflict amid the ongoing conflict with Hamas in Gaza.
Sirens sounded in northern Israel on Sunday afternoon, prompting residents to seek shelter, as the military intercepted five of nine rockets fired from Lebanon. In response, Israel conducted artillery fire on the area from which the rockets were launched.
Gallant emphasised Israel's desire to avoid a war in the north, saying: "If Hezbollah chooses the path of war, it will pay a very heavy price. But if it restrains itself, we will respect that and keep the situation as it is."
He acknowledged that there have been exchanges of fire across the border in recent days.
However, just the previous day, Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian warned Israel to cease its attacks on Gaza, cautioning that the ongoing conflict could expand to other parts of the Middle East if Hezbollah becomes involved, which would have significant consequences for Israel.
Amirabdollahian noted that Hezbollah has considered various conflict scenarios, and he urged Israel to halt its attacks on Gaza.
Israel views Hezbollah as its most immediate and serious threat, estimating that the group possesses a substantial arsenal of rockets and missiles, including precision-guided projectiles capable of targeting any part of Israel.
Hezbollah also boasts thousands of battle-hardened fighters with experience from the 12-year conflict in Syria, as well as diverse military drone capabilities.
Following a deadly attack by the Palestinian group Hamas on the previous Saturday, Hezbollah fighters have been on high alert along Lebanon's borders with Israel. The Israeli military reported that it conducted a drone strike along the Lebanon border to eliminate a "cell" attempting to infiltrate Israel. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for launching multiple rockets at four Israeli positions along the border.
Amirabdollahian's discussions in Beirut centred on the situation in Gaza and the broader Middle East region. He met with Saleh Arouri, a senior Hamas official in exile, and Ziad Nakhaleh, the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, according to Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV.
These meetings indicate the high stakes and complex dynamics involved in the ongoing regional conflict.