Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Israel exchanged fire again on Saturday as Iran warned it could soon be “too late” to prevent the war with Hamas from becoming a wider regional conflict.
On October 7, Hamas, which the United States considers a terrorist organization, carried out the deadliest Palestinian militant attack in history against Israel. Israel then launched its heaviest ever airstrikes on Gaza. As of Saturday, at least 1,300 people had been killed in Israel, the Associated Press reported, citing the Israeli military. More than 1,500 people have been killed and more than 6,600 injured in Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, the AP said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country was “at war” and had cut off supplies of food, fuel, electricity and medicine to Gaza. Israel has called up 360,000 reservists as it prepares for a likely ground offensive on the territory, whose population is estimated at around 2.3 million. Israel has asked Palestinians to evacuate Gaza, but it remains unclear where civilians can flee to safety.
Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed group that the United States also designates as a terrorist organization, has expressed strong support for Hamas, as has Iran. The Lebanese militant group has repeatedly exchanged fire with Israel since the start of the war, raising fears that the conflict could become regional instead of limited to Israel and Gaza.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said News week Saturday, as he responded to new Hezbollah attacks. “Following the initial report of several shots identified from Lebanon towards the Har Dov area, IDF soldiers are currently striking the source of the shots,” the Israeli army said.
He added: “During the strikes, a terrorist cell suspected of intending to launch anti-tank missiles towards Israel was identified. An IDF aircraft targeted this cell.”
Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television channel said the Lebanese group had launched strikes targeting Israeli outposts. “Resistance fighters fired precision missiles and mortar shells, hitting Zionist outposts directly and precisely,” Al-Manar reported.
Israeli strikes targeting Lebanon on Friday killed a Reuters video journalist and injured six other journalists. Three Hezbollah militants were killed in Israeli attacks on Monday, and Israel said an Israeli soldier was killed in a skirmish with the Lebanese group two days later, the AP reported.
Mohammad Harb, mayor of the southern Lebanese village of Chebaa, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that Israeli bombing on Saturday killed two civilians. “A man and his wife were killed in their home,” he said. The Israeli military said it killed three militants on Saturday who were trying to infiltrate the country from Lebanon, according to the Times of Israel.
Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Saturday during a visit to Beirut that the window for a diplomatic end to hostilities was closing, warning that the conflict could turn regional. “Maybe in the next few hours it will be too late,” he said, according to the Lebanese news site Naharnet.
The Iranian official added that pro-Iranian groups, such as Hezbollah, “have designed all the scenarios and are prepared, and have their finger on the trigger to shoot.”
On Friday, Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem said his group had a “vision and a plan” for greater involvement in the war.
“We are following the enemy’s footsteps, we remain fully ready and when the time comes to act, we will do so,” Qassem said, rejecting calls for Hezbollah to stay out of the conflict.
He said: “Asking us not to interfere in the battle will not affect us,” adding that “Hezbollah knows its duties.”
The US State Department previously said News week Monday, Hezbollah and other groups should not get involved in the conflict. “Any decision by Hezbollah or other actors to drag Lebanon into this conflict would have terrible consequences for the Lebanese people. They deserve better,” a spokesperson said.
Analysts have warned that Hezbollah’s involvement could significantly worsen the situation, as the militant group has far greater firepower than Hamas. However, others have noted that the group, which holds significant political power in Lebanon, also faces significant opposition inside the country.
Lebanon continues to face a serious economic crisis and, although much of the Lebanese population sympathizes with the Palestinian cause, they would not want their nation to be drawn into a bloody confrontation with Israel. Hezbollah and Israel fought a war in 2006 that lasted 34 days. The conflict is estimated to have left some 165 Israelis and more than 1,100 Lebanese dead.
“Iran has affiliates all over the Middle East. These groups are financed and supplied by the Iranians. Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, etc. are all loyal to the Iranian regime and, more importantly, to the goal of achieving a global caliphate.” Danny W. Davis, professor of homeland security practice at Texas A&M University, said News week in an email Saturday. “I believe Hezbollah will do exactly what Iranian leaders order it to do.”
Separately, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Saturday that “everyone in the Islamic world has a duty to help the Palestinian people,” according to the Iranian Tasnim news agency.
Update, 10/14/23 at 1:46 p.m. ET: This article has been updated with additional information.
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