Hezbollah threats against Israel over Gaza hospital blast didn’t materialize: Experts

Published: Updated:
Read Mode
100% Font Size
7 min read

Lebanese Iran-backed militia Hezbollah’s threats against Israel after the blast at a hospital in Gaza did not materialize, but if the group does take action, it would be due to Iran’s pressure, experts told Al Arabiya English.

Henri J. Barkey, the Cohen Professor of International Relations at Lehigh University and an adjunct senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council of Foreign Relations, told Al Arabiya English there is a chance that the conflict could trigger a confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah along the border.

“But it is too risky for [Hezbollah] and Lebanon. Also, there are two US carrier groups in the region that will supplement Israeli intelligence and make it very difficult for Hezbollah to act. If they do, it will be because Iran will be putting pressure on them,” Barkey said.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The US had sent the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (CSG) to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea “to deter any actor seeking to escalate the situation or widen this war.” Efforts to increase US posture continued, including the rapid movement into the theater of US Air Force F-15s, F-16s, and A-10s to augment existing fighter squadrons in the region.

FILE - In this Saturday, April 8, 2017 file photo provided by the U.S. Navy, the USS Gerald R. Ford embarks on the first of its sea trials to test various state-of-the-art systems on its own power for the first time, from Newport News, Va. Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman William Couch said in a statement that the USS Gerald R. Ford arrived Sunday, July 15, 2018, at Newport News Shipbuilding. Work at the shipyard will mark the next phase in the development of the Navy's most advanced and scrutinized warship. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni/U.S. Navy via AP, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, April 8, 2017 file photo provided by the U.S. Navy, the USS Gerald R. Ford embarks on the first of its sea trials to test various state-of-the-art systems on its own power for the first time, from Newport News, Va. Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman William Couch said in a statement that the USS Gerald R. Ford arrived Sunday, July 15, 2018, at Newport News Shipbuilding. Work at the shipyard will mark the next phase in the development of the Navy's most advanced and scrutinized warship. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni/U.S. Navy via AP, File)

As for the role of Iran and its influence on Hezbollah, Nimrod Goren, Senior fellow for Israel Affairs at the Middle East Institute, told Al Arabiya English: “Iran is clearly involved, although the exact scope is unclear. Hamas and Hezbollah are both close proxies of Iran and are supported by it. A Hamas terror operation of the scope that took place on October 7 is not likely to have happened without an Iranian green light and support in planning and maybe also in execution. Since Iran has also voiced threats to Israel on possible expansion of the war to additional fronts.”

‘Day of rage’

Hezbollah declared October 18 as “day of rage” against Israel after the strike on the hospital in Gaza. Palestinian authorities said hundreds of civilians were killed by the massive explosion at Al Ahli Hospital, which was serving as a shelter for thousands of displaced people when it came under fire.

Palestinian officials blamed Israeli airstrikes for the tragedy; however, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) “categorically” denied involvement in the attack on the hospital and pointed the finger of blame at a “failed rocket launch” by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group. The US backed Israel’s version of the events and blamed Palestinian militants for the attack on the hospital.

Barkey questioned the likelihood of the hospital attack being the cause for Hezbollah to declare direct war on Israel. “What will be the justification for starting a war with Israel when clearly the Israelis do not want it? The hospital bombing will not wash because the evidence is and will be coming that it was not Israel.”

Goren said: “Hezbollah made threats of a ‘day of rage’ after initial accusations that Israel struck a hospital in Gaza and caused mass casualties. Once it was made clear – also not publicly admitted by many in the region – that the damage and losses were caused due to a misfired Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket –[the] threats did not materialize.”

However, Goren added: “But the threat of escalation with Hezbollah still very much exists, unrelated to the hospital incident.”

Moreover, Barkey stated: “Hezbollah will try to make the most out of this situation. It is not surprising that they would do that. They are seeking to strengthen their situation at home in the region. Short of war, this is what they will do. I am pretty sure they have been warned in no uncertain terms by many, including the Americans, many Arab leaders, and Europeans. The government in Beirut must also have been warned that should Hezbollah start something that, there will be no support for any reconstruction.”

Hezbollah’s involvement in conflict

Hezbollah had said that international and regional calls for the group to stay out of the Hamas-Israel conflict will not be heeded. “The behind-the-scenes calls with us by great powers, Arab countries, envoys of the United Nations, directly and indirectly telling us not to interfere will have no effect,” deputy chief Naim Qassem said, as cited by Hezbollah’s TV Al Manar. “Hezbollah knows its duties perfectly well. We are prepared and ready, fully ready.”

Hezbollah members attend the funeral of Mohamed Tahan, who was killed at the border fence with Israel yesterday, in Adloun, southern Lebanon May 15, 2021. REUTERS/Aziz Taher
Hezbollah members attend the funeral of Mohamed Tahan, who was killed at the border fence with Israel yesterday, in Adloun, southern Lebanon May 15, 2021. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

Tel Aviv has said that Hezbollah has fired dozens of anti-tank guided missiles, rockets, and mortars at Israeli military positions and Israeli towns since the Hamas attack on October 7 while also sending gunmen to infiltrate into Israel.

Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that the army must be prepared at the northern front against any move by Lebanese Iran-backed militia Hezbollah, which he stated was “10 times stronger” than the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The Israeli Defense Minister asked the government to finalize transferring military equipment to the northern front – the border region with Lebanon.

Additionally, the White House said it was concerned that Hezbollah could participate in the Israel-Hamas war as the militia continued its operations against Israeli targets at the Lebanese-Israeli border. White House national security spokesman John Kirby said: “They are a potent terrorist group, no question about it. We watch them closely. The Israelis watch them closely. We don’t want to see this conflict widened. We don’t want to see Hezbollah make that kind of a decision.”

Goren said: “Tensions along the Israel-Lebanon border due to Hezbollah attacks and Israeli retaliation have been taking place throughout the past week. It was of medium-scale intensity so far but with casualties and damage. Israel is not interested in an expansion of the war to its northern front, and so are other regional and international actors. US efforts are geared towards conveying messages to Iran and Hezbollah not to enter the war.”

Furthermore, Israeli officials said US President Joe Biden’s administration has been secretly urging Israel not to launch a military campaign against Lebanese Iran-backed militia Hezbollah to ensure the Israeli conflict with Palestinian militant group Hamas does not spread beyond Gaza. They added: “The US has cautioned Israel to be careful in its military responses to Hezbollah fire, explaining that an IDF mistake in Lebanon could spark a much larger war.”

Read more:

Hezbollah 10 times stronger than Hamas: Israeli defense minister

US expects Israel to destroy Hamas, it will take 6-8 months: Former IDF commander

Israel conducts more airstrikes on Hezbollah targets on border with Lebanon

US secretly pushing Israel not to initiate war with Hezbollah: Israeli officials

Top Content Trending