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The Israel-Hamas War: Operation Iron Sword
Hezbollah Joins the Fight

(October 7, 2023 - Present)
By Mitchell Bard

The Second Front
Violence Escalates
War On the Horizon
Nearing the Brink

The Second Front

A second front in the war was always a possibility, given Iran’s objective of forcing Israel to fight on multiple fronts. Israel has been preparing for years for the possibility of a war in Lebanon and was on alert for any sign Hezbollah might enter the fighting.

Hezbollah was not supposed to be a threat. The United States pressured Israel to end the Second Lebanon War in 2006 with the promise that an international force would be created to keep the peace, Hezbollah would be disarmed, and arms smuggling would be curtailed. When UN Security Council 1701 was adopted, the expectation was that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) would enforce these objectives. UNIFIL was a total failure: the Lebanese Army failed to take control of the country, Hezbollah refused to disarm or disband and reestablished itself along the Israeli border, and with the help of Syria and Iran, smuggled weapons into Lebanon to prepare for a future war, to destroy Israel.

Hamas believed it had a commitment from Hezbollah to attack Israel when it launched its raid on October 7, 2023. One reason that did not happen was Israeli preparations. According to the Wall Street Journal, Israel had launched planes for a preemptive strike against Hezbollah on October 11 when its intelligence indicated Hezbollah was preparing a cross-border attack. Believing they needed American support, Israeli officials informed the Biden administration of the plan. Biden’s top intelligence officials did not believe an attack was imminent from Lebanon. Hoping to avert a wider war, the president convinced Netanyahu to call off the attack. Netanyahu denied the report.

Still, Israel prepared for war by sending troops to defend the northern border.

Starting the second day of the war, Hezbollah began launching drones and firing anti-tank missiles and mortar shells at IDF positions on the Lebanese border. Israel returned fire. On October 9, several terrorists crossed the border and were killed by Israeli forces.

Tensions continued to grow as Israel’s attacks on Gaza intensified. Hezbollah and IDF troops periodically exchanged fire along the border; one Israeli was killed and three wounded by an anti-tank missile. Israel used artillery to shell the area and may have killed a Reuters videographer and injured six other journalists.

Israel ordered 22 communities along the border to evacuate and began moving troops north.

Both Iran and Hezbollah were thought to be more interested in seeing Israel bogged down and bleeding in Israel than mounting a direct assault. Israel had warned Hezbollah before the Gaza War began that it would show no restraint if it were attacked from Lebanon. According to the Washington Institute’s Hanin Ghaddar:

The goal of Hezbollah’s current strategy seems clear: to reap the benefits of the Hamas-Israel war without losing the military presence it has steadily built up in Lebanon since 2006. Although the group believes that opening another front could temporarily overwhelm Israel per the “united front” strategy designed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), it also seems to realize that this approach would fail to defeat Israel in the long term—more likely, it would wind up destroying Hezbollah’s arsenal and weakening its forces. A full-scale war that ends without clear victory would leave the organization with insufficient funding to restock its military or push a “victory” narrative to its core constituency in Lebanon; the leadership might not even be able to rebuild their strongholds in Beirut and the south.

Ghaddar added that Iran may be satisfied for now with having frozen the Israeli-Saudi normalization process, exposed weaknesses in Israel’s intelligence and military strength, and, through its support for Hamas, “caused serious harm inside Israel in retaliation for suspected Israeli operations inside Iran.”

While the threat from Lebanon has attracted the most attention, Israel is also concerned with the Syrian border. Iranian and Hezbollah forces have been present in Syria since the beginning of the civil war. Iran is believed to have more than 13 military bases with five divisions of troops in Syria, provoking Israel to repeatedly bomb targets in Syria to prevent a buildup of troops and weaponry.

On October 14, rockets were fired at Israel from Syria. Israel responded by bombing the airports in Damascus and Aleppo to interdict Iranian weapons shipments. Israel also began attacking Hezbollah targets in Lebanon. Two days later, the IDF ordered the evacuation of 28 communities within two miles of the border, and Hezbollah and the IDF exchanged fire. An anti-tank missile injured three people in Metulla on the 17th, and the IDF killed four would-be infiltrators and five other Hezbollah terrorists. On October 18, Hezbollah destroyed surveillance cameras on several Israeli army posts along the border, further ratcheting up tensions. Israel launched airstrikes in Lebanon the following night.

On October 19, 30 rockets were launched from Lebanon toward Kiryat Shemonah. They were believed to have been shot by Hamas. A father and his daughter were wounded.

Hezbollah continued to fire rockets and anti-tank missiles into Israel on October 21. The IDF returned fire. On a visit to the area, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said, “Hezbollah has decided to join the combat and is paying a price for it, and we must prepare for any possibility. Great challenges lie ahead.”

Provocations continued from both Lebanon and Syria. In response to rocket launches from Syria toward Israel on October 24, IAF fighter jets struck military infrastructure and mortar launchers belonging to the Syrian Army. The IDF has intercepted drones from Lebanon and eliminated more than 20 Hezbollah cells.

Another 14 communities close to the Lebanese border were set to be evacuated and settled in state-funded guest houses. Many residents began moving south when attacks from Lebanon escalated. An estimated 250,000 Israelis were displaced from 64 evacuated towns.

Hezbollah is coordinating activities with the Gaza terrorists. According to a report by Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah met with the head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ziad Nahleh, and the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, Saleh al-Arouri to discuss the path to “real victory.”

On October 29, the IDF destroyed several Hezbollah observation posts in southern Lebanon in response to four separate rocket and missile attacks. The IDF intercepted a surface-to-air missile that was launched from Lebanese territory on the 31st. Exchanges of fire continued daily, prompting thousands of Lebanese civilians near the border to move north.

Hamas in Lebanon fired 12 rockets at Kiryat Shemonah on November 2, wounding two people and causing widespread damage.

In a much-anticipated speech on November 3, Nasrallah denied that Hezbollah was aware of the Hamas plan or had any part in it but expressed solidarity with the Palestinians and their “martyrs.” He was vague, however, about whether Hezbollah would intensify its attacks. “Some claim Hezbollah is about to join the fray. I tell you: We have been engaged in this battle since October 8,” he said. “Some would like Hezbollah to engage in an all-out war, but I can tell you: What is happening now along the Israeli-Lebanese border is significant, and it is not the end.”

Nasrallah and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also exchanged threats. In his speech, the Hezbollah leader said, “I tell the Israelis, if you are considering carrying out a preemptive attack against Lebanon, it will be the most foolish mistake you make in your entire existence.” Israel’s prime minister responded that Israel’s “enemies in the north” should not escalate the war. “You cannot imagine how much this will cost you,” he declared.

He also accused President Joe Biden of making a “fake argument that Hamas cut off children’s heads (without) evidence.”

Violence Escalates

Violence along the border escalated after his speech, with one Israeli civilian killed by an anti-tank missile fired from Lebanon and Israel launching new airstrikes on Hezbollah targets. On November 6, 30 rockets were fired from Lebanon. There were no reports of damage or injuries, and the IAF responded with strikes on Hezbollah targets. Kiryat Shemonah continued to be bombarded, and the estimated 3,000 residents who remained after the town was evacuated were advised again to leave.

Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi said the military was “ready at any moment to go on the offense in the north.”

Undeterred, Hezbollah fired 20 rockets into Israel on November 7. IAF jets destroyed a Hezbollah weapons warehouse, rocket fire installations, and infrastructure for directing terror attacks.

Hezbollah ceased its attacks during the pause in fighting when Israel and Hamas exchanged prisoners for hostages. Once Hamas broke the ceasefire, Hezbollah resumed its attacks, which seemed to be carefully calibrated to avoid provoking a large-scale Israeli response. Rockets, mortars, and anti-tank missiles were directed at areas close to the border. Israel struck the source of the fire and, in one case, inadvertently hit an area that caused casualties to the Lebanese army. The IDF said it “regretted an incident.”

Nasrallah made another speech saying that Iran supports the “axis of resistance” (including Hamas, Hezbollah, Yemen’s Houthis, and Iraqi Shia groups). He admitted Arab states felt no compulsion to go to war with Israel but insisted they pressure the United States to call for a ceasefire.

On November 10, a drone fired from Syria hit a school in Eilat. Some 40 students were in the basement at the time but had no serious injuries. Israel responded with an airstrike targeting the group that launched the drone. Hezbollah said seven of its fighters were killed but didn’t say if it was from the Israeli attack.

On November 11, six Israeli civilians were wounded by anti-tank missiles fired from Lebanon as violence continued to escalate. The following day, eight soldiers and ten civilians (six making repairs for the Israel Electricity Corporation) were wounded by missiles. Multiple rockets were fired, four were intercepted, and the rest fell in open areas. Another 20 rockets were fired on the 13th. The IAF responded with airstrikes.

Hezbollah continued to fire at Israeli targets. On November 17, more than ten missile and mortar attacks came from Lebanon. An anti-tank missile wounded four Israelis. The IDF  responded with artillery shelling and airstrikes.

Hezbollah also stepped up its attacks on northern Israel. Rather than react to each one as it did in the first weeks of the war, the IDF began to initiate operations against Hezbollah’s infrastructure. The Biden administration remained worried that the fighting would escalate to all-out war and rebuked Israel for attacks that had hit Lebanese armed forces, which the U.S. has been supporting and arming.

One reason Israel may be holding back from a major assault is that approximately 20% of Hezbollah’s rockets have landed inside Lebanon.

Those reaching Israel caused extensive damage. On December 7, an Israeli civilian was killed by an anti-tank missile fired from Lebanon.

Israel has continued its limited strikes in Lebanon and also targeted Hezbollah military sites inside Syria. The violence has escalated almost daily. on December 26, nine soldiers were wounded while helping an Israeli civilian wounded by an anti-tank missile fired at the St. Mary’s Greek-Orthodox Church in the northern village of Iqrit. The IDF killed the terrorist who fired the missile.

The heaviest barrage to date was on December 27, with six rockets causing damage to residential buildings and infrastructure in Kiryat Shemonah, An additional three rockets were intercepted by Iron Dome, with the remainder landing in open areas.

War On the Horizon

The inevitability of an all-out war was becoming increasingly obvious. On December 27, a source told Haaretz, “Hezbollah has fired off in the current conflict more than 2,500 missiles and mortar shells. This is nothing less than a declaration of war. In any other situation, we would have responded differently, but we have consciously decided not to fight back. We hope and pray that diplomacy will cause Hezbollah to calm down. But even if that happens, it’s like taking an aspirin.” A Likud minister lamented, “Yes, we may find ourselves in a more difficult situation than we’re in now, as difficult as that is, as odd as that may seem. We understand that if we don’t act now, the price will be higher and more painful later. The real test of Hezbollah’s intentions will come when we move to the next stage in Gaza.”

Following the assassination of Arouri in Beirut, Nasrallah called the attack a “major and dangerous crime” that “will not go unanswered and unpunished.” He said, “If the enemy thinks of waging a war on Lebanon, we will fight without restraint, without rules, without limits and without restrictions.”

Hezbollah Weapons Storage Facilities Targeted by IDF

The Biden administration sent Special Envoy Amos Hochstein to Lebanon and Israel “to help resolve some of the tension” and prevent the escalation of fighting. Gallant said after meeting with the envoy that time for a diplomatic solution was running out. “There is only one possible result – a new reality in the northern arena, which will enable the secure return of our citizens,” Gallant said. “Yet we find ourselves at a junction -- there is a short window of time for diplomatic understandings, which we prefer. We will not tolerate the threats posed by the Iranian proxy, Hezbollah, and we will ensure the security of our citizens.”

Hezbollah targeted Israeli surveillance outposts and damaged a key air traffic control base on Mount Meron used to coordinate air attacks in Lebanon. The person believed responsible for the attack on the base, Wissam Al Tawil, a senior commander also responsible for the Radwan Brigade in the area, was killed in a targeted strike two days later. Tawil was Nasrallah’s brother-in-law. The commander of Hezbollah’s drone force, Ali Hussein Barji, was killed on his way to Tawil’s funeral.

Terrorists attempted to infiltrate from the north. Israel killed four on January 13. The following day, a missile strike in Kfar Yuval killed a mother and her son, and seriously injured the father. These were the first civilian casualties on the northern border since November 13, when an anti-tank missile killed an electrician repairing power lines damaged in another attack. Israel responded with air and artillery strikes on Hezbollah sites.

On January 25, the IDF attacked a key Hezbollah-Iranian airstrip in Kilat Jaber, Lebanon, that was used for launching aerial attacks against Israel.

The impact of Hezbollah’s anti-tank strikes was receiving little publicity in the international media because the civilian areas they were targeting were evacuated. Still, they were affecting families from places like Kiryat Shemonah, Shtula, Metullah, and Kibbutz Dafna, whose homes were being destroyed. As of February 1, 2024, 80,000 residents had been evacuated, 427 homes had structural damage, and 80 had major damage from direct hits. The most damage was in Metulah 131 homes, Shlomi 130, and Manarah 121.

The United States reportedly exchanged messages with Nasrallah, who believes the Americans control Israel and can prevent it from attacking Lebanon. Nasrallah was told he was wrong and should not make the mistake of provoking Israel to launch an all-out war.

Meanwhile, Biden emissary Amos Hochstein continued efforts to reach a diplomatic solution. The proposals, however, require only a partial implementation of Resolution 1701. Hezbollah would not be required to disarm or move its forces north of the Litani River. Lebanese army troops would be deployed along the border, and Hezbollah would agree not to move forces it has withdrawn back to the area. Lebanon would receive economic carrots for agreeing to a deal. Israel would have to stop its flights into Lebanon and pull out some of its forces from the border. Israel did not reject the proposal but continued to insist that the border situation would have to change to allow its citizens to return to their homes.

Since Hezbollah began bombarding northern Israel, few casualties were reported. On February 13, 2024, however, a 15-year-old boy and a 47-year-old woman were seriously injured when their car was hit by a rocket near Kiryat Shemonah. The following day, multiple rockets landed in Safed, killing one and injuring seven.

In a speech on February 13, Nasrallah declared, “We are committed to fighting Israel until it is off the map. A strong Israel is dangerous to Lebanon, but a deterred Israel, defeated and exhausted, is less of a danger to Lebanon.” He added, “The national interest of Lebanon, the Palestinians, and the Arab world is that Israel leaves this battle defeated. Therefore, we are committed that Israel is defeated.”

On February 15, Israel killed Ali Muhammad al-Debes and his deputy Hassan Ibrahim Issa. The former was a commander in the Radwan Force who Israel said was one of the masterminds behind a bombing attack at the Megiddo Junction and other attacks against Israel.

With the scale of violence ramping up, the Washington Post reported that Iranian officials have told Hezbollah not to give Israel a reason to initiate an all-out war in Lebanon. Hezbollah was also urged to “exercise restraint against U.S. forces” to avoid provoking an American response.

Meanwhile, little attention has been given to another serious threat posed by Hezbollah, namely its tunnel system. Israel discovered some tunnels near the border, which it believed were meant for a 10/7 type attack. Operation Northern Shield destroyed them at the beginning of 2019. This was yet another example of how Hezbollah violated UN Resolution 1701, and UNIFIL failed in its primary mission.

A new report from a French publication says that Hezbollah has a tunnel network built with North Korean assistance that stretches hundreds of miles, including branches into Syria. The tunnels are believed to house missiles and other weapons. As in Gaza, they are built under civilian homes. This may pose an even greater challenge for the IDF as Hezbollah has far more experienced and skilled fighters in addition to more sophisticated weapons than Hamas.

In preparation for the expected expansion of the war with Hezbollah, the Israeli Navy conducted exercises to simulate preventing drone attacks, aerial rescue operations from vessels, and refueling the missile boats at sea. The exercises were timed with new warnings from Israel that if a diplomatic solution to the threat from Hezbollah were not found soon, it would be necessary to take military action. 

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Israel provided the UN Security Council with evidence that Iran was continuing to send arms to Hezbollah in violation of Resolution 1701. The intelligence included details on the types of weapons supplied, the routes used, and the shipment dates.

Strikes back and forth continued daily, with Israel hitting deeper into Lebanon and Hezbollah escalating threats of reprisals.

On March 4, 2024, eight foreign workers were injured by an anti-tank missile. One from India died.

Even as Hochstein met with Lebanese officials in an effort to head off further escalation, Hezbollah was launching salvos of missiles. Hochstein said a truce in Gaza would not necessarily bring an automatic end to hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah. “Escalation of violence is in no one’s interest, and there is no such thing as a limited war,” he said. “A temporary ceasefire is not enough. A limited war is not containable.”

Israel’s position remained unchanged. It would not stop fighting until it was safe for the 80,000 residents who were evacuated from border communities to safely return to their homes. All efforts to pressure the Lebanese government and Hezbollah to accept the terms of UN Security Council 1701 failed.

On March 27, a 25-year-old man was killed by a Hezbollah rocket that hit a building in Kiryat Shmona and caused a fire. A second man was rescued unharmed. Hezbollah said the attack was in retaliation for an Israeli airstrike that killed seven members of the al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya group who were planning to infiltrate the border. The group cooperates with Hezbollah even though it is composed of Sunni Muslims while Hezbollah is Shiite.

On April 16, 14 IDF soldiers and four civilians were wounded by two Hezbollah drones and two anti-tank missiles fired at and around a community center in Arab al-Aramshe, a Bedouin village in northern Galilee. Civilians had returned to the town after having left for safety for three months because they had not received any financial aid. Israel responded with multiple airstrikes.

“Half of the Hezbollah commanders in south Lebanon have been eliminated… and the other half hide and abandon south Lebanon to IDF operations,” Gallant said on April 24.

On April 26, an anti-tank missile killed an Israeli Bedouin working on an infrastructure project for the IDF in the Mount Dov area, which was a frequent target of Hezbollah.

France, which has historic ties to Lebanon, has been attempting to negotiate an end to the fighting. French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne met with Lebanese and Israeli officials and reportedly proposed that Hezbollah withdraw its forces to 10 km north of the border and remove outposts near the border. Lebanese Armed Forces would then be deployed along the border. Israel would stop flying over Lebanese airspace and negotiate a change in the border. Hezbollah rejected the deal and continued its bombardment of northern communities in Israel, with Israel responding with tank and mortar fire along with airstrikes.

On May 6, two Israeli reserve soldiers were killed in a Hezbollah drone attack.

Hezbollah escalated its attacks in late May and early June, attacking targets deeper inside Israel with rockets and drones. On June 10, Hezbollah tried for the first time to shoot down an Israeli fighter using Iranian-made anti-aircraft missiles. The jet was unharmed, and the missile site was destroyed.

Nearing the Brink

Israel killed the highest-ranking Hezbollah commander on June 11, 2024. Taleb Sami Abdullah had been in charge of a unit that oversees parts of the southern border region. Hezbollah responded with a barrage of more than 200 rockets. One hit a factory in Kibbutz Sasa, some three miles from the border. Others were intercepted over Safed. Still more started fires. The Israeli Parks Authority said nearly 15,000 acres of land had burned in the first half of 2024.

On June 18, General Ori Gordin, head of the IDF Northern Command, and General Oded Basiuk, head of the Operations Directorate, announced the IDF had approved operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon. A day later, Hezbollah released a video purportedly taken by a drone showing Israeli military and civilian locations in several Israeli cities, which was seen as a warning of potential targets if an all-out war begins.

Nasrallah intensified his threats on June 19, saying if there is a war, “there will be no place safe from our missiles and our drones.” He added Hezbollah would fight with “no rules” and “no ceilings.”

He also threatened Cyprus. “The Cypriot government must be warned that opening Cypriot airports and bases for the Israeli enemy to target Lebanon means that the Cypriot government has become part of the war and the resistance (Hezbollah) will deal with it as part of the war,” Nasrallah said.

Though Cyprus and Israel have good relations and have conducted joint military exercises, the Cypriot president insisted his government was not taking sides. “It (Cyprus) is not part of the problem, it is part of the solution. That role is evident, for example, through the humanitarian (aid) corridor [to Gaza' which has been acknowledged not only by the Arab world, but from the international community.”

Analysts were focused on the number and capability of Hezbollah’s missiles and drones and Israel’s ability to defend against them. According to the Alma Research and Education Center, Hezbollah’s arsenal consists of:

  • 150,000 mortars
  • 65,000 rockets with a range of 50 miles (80 km)
  • 5,000 rockets with a range of 50-125 miles(80-200 km)
  • 5,000 missiles with a range of 125-435 miles (200-700 km)
  • 2,500 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
  • Hundreds of advanced conventional weapons

Of these, some 75,000 have been converted to precision-guided rockets/missiles, which Hezbollah can fire from hardened bunkers and mobile launchers. Reichman University’s Institute for Counter-Terrorism reported Hezbollah could fire up to 3,000 missiles a day for as long as three weeks. 

“We assess that at least some” Iron Dome batteries “will be overwhelmed,” a senior Biden administration official told CNN. The Iron Dome is also ineffective against drones, which Hezbollah has increasingly used to devastating effect. 

U.S. officials were especially worried about the war escalating. Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Iran “would be more inclined to support Hezbollah.” He said the U.S. was discouraging Israel from attacking Lebanon and “to think about the second order of effect of any type of operation into Lebanon, and how that might play out and how it impacts not just the region, but how it impacts our forces in regions as well.”

While the administration reassured Israeli officials that the U.S. would support Israel, Brown said the U.S. would not be able to provide the same protection against Hezbollah missiles that it did when Iran attacked Israel. The U.S. could intercept long-range ballistic missiles but could not stop short-range rockets or drones unless it had planes in the air over Israel, which would complicate operations for the Israeli Air Force.

While talk of all-out war was growing more strident, Israel and Hezbollah continued their mostly tit-for-tat attacks and counterattacks. Israel began to strike deeper into Lebanon and eliminated Ayman Ratma, who was responsible for weapons supplies for the Hamas and Jamaa Islamiya terrorist organizations in Lebanon. 

Another alarming report came from The Telegraph, which said whistleblowers at Beirut airport were worried it might become a target because of increasing weapons supplies arriving on flights from Iran, which were being stored at the site. Wafiq Safa, Hezbollah’s second in command and the head of its security apparatus, was said to be a regular visitor to the airport. With Hezbollah in control of the government and the area surrounding the airfield, sources told the paper nothing could be done. Lebanon’s transport minister, the choice of Hezbollah, denied the allegations of the whistleblowers.

AP reported that “thousands of fighters from Iran-backed groups in the Middle East are ready to come to Lebanon” to fight with Hezbollah if Israel attacks. “We told them, thank you, but we are overwhelmed by the numbers we have,” Nasrallah said. The group claimed to have more than 100,000 fighters. 

Khalil Rizk, the chief of Hizbullah's foreign relations departmentmade clear Hezbollah considers its real enemy the United States. “This is not a war with Israel,” he said. “Israel is merely a tool. The main war, the real war, is with America.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned that Hezbollah’s “provocations threaten to drag the Israeli and Lebanese people into a war that neither of them wants, and such a war would be a catastrophe for Lebanon, and it would be devastating for innocent Israeli and Lebanese civilians.” He insisted “principled diplomacy is the only way to prevent any further escalation of tensions in the region.”

In addition, Hochstein visited Beirut and warned that the U.S. would not be able to keep Israel from invading Lebanon if Hezbollah did not stop its attacks and negotiate an agreement to end hostilities.

Indications that the escalation was near were that the U.S. and other countries began advising their citizens to leave Lebanon. 

On June 27, Ali al-Din was killed in a targeted strike. He was a member of Hezbollah’s aerial forces, behind drone attacks on northern Israel. In response, Hezbollah fired a barrage of 40 rockets into Israel, and the IAF responded with airstrikes.

Two days later, Iran’s mission to the United Nations said on Friday that if Israel embarks on a “full-scale military aggression” in Lebanon against Hezbollah, “an obliterating war will ensue.” It said, “all options, including the full involvement of all resistance fronts, are on the table.”

From October 8, 2023, through the end of June 2024, Hezbollah launched 2,295 attacks on Israel, including anti-tank missiles and drones. On the last day of June, in the most serious incident to date, 18 Israeli soldiers were wounded when a drone hit an area where they were stationed in the northern Golan Heights.

After evacuating some 61,000 citizens from 43 communities within three miles of the Lebanese border, Israel made clear the situation was untenable and that unless a diplomatic solution forced Hezbollah away from the border, an all-out war was coming. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken admitted as much on July 1, 2024, when he said Israel “has effectively lost sovereignty in the northern quadrant of its country because people don’t feel safe to go to their homes” and though Israel did not want a war, “they may well be prepared to engage in one if necessary — from their perspective — to protect their interests.”

Israel killed another Hezbollah commander, Muhammad Nimah Nasser, on July 3. Hezbollah retaliated with a barrage of more than 200 rockets and drones, which sparked fires in northern Israel. Continuing the pattern, the IAF responded with airstrikes.

One hope for avoiding an all-out war was that a hostage and ceasefire deal could be reached with Hamas. Hezbollah has also said it would ceasefire if such an agreement took effect. However, their forces would remain, in defiance of UN Resolution 1701, near the Israeli border, and the population that was forced to evacuate the northern communities is not likely to feel safe enough to return under those conditions. If so, it seems a war to at least push Hezbollah north of the Litani River would be inevitable.

Hezbollah rockets continued to cause damage in northern communities and spark fires. 

The IDF escalated its targeting of the supply chain and storage of weapons from Iran, including commanders responsible for arming the group. On July 9, the IDF assassinated Yasser Nimer Qarnabash; Hezbollah responded with a barrage of 40 rockets. Nasrallah subsequently ordered commanders to stop using cell phones that Israel could track. 

“If Israeli tanks come to Lebanon, they will not only have a shortage in tanks but will never have any tanks left,” Nasrallah threatened on July 17. “The resistance missiles will target new Israeli settlements that were not targeted before.” He added, “Our front in Lebanon will not stop as long as the aggression against Gaza, its people, and resistance in its various forms continues.”

The following day, Hezbollah said Israel killed Habib Maatouk, a senior commander in the Radwan force. He was the replacement for someone Israel killed in April. After assassinations, Hezbollah has usually increased its bombardment of Israel.

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