A round of bombing on the Lebanese-Israeli front (Reuters)

The Expansion of the Israeli-Lebanese War and its Regional Ramifications


Thu, 11-07-2024 01:21 PM, Aden

These developments reveal a dangerous situation in Lebanon that opens up all possibilities over the coming days.

Abdullah Al-Shadli (South24)

On June 18, the Israeli army announced that its operational plans for an offensive on Lebanon were approved and it is ready to engage in a war if necessary, following months of cross-border exchanges and skirmishes with the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia. 

As a result, Western countries asked their citizens to leave Lebanon amid concerns about the outbreak of a comprehensive war in the country. This came along with the flaring war in Gaza since October 2023 which has killed and injured about 130,000 Palestinians, including many children and women. 

On June 25, the German embassy in Lebanon in an advisory said: “German citizens are urgently requested to leave Lebanon. The current heightened tensions in the border area with Israel could escalate further.”

There are concerns that a possible war in Lebanon could lead to the breakout of a wider regional conflict. This is in light of threats by Iran and its affiliated military groups in Iraq and Yemen that they will wholly engage in the possible war in favor of Hezbollah.

Furthermore, American reports talk about a possible Russian participation to support Hezbollah in the event of a war with Israel. This has dangerous international dimensions. So, will the war flare in Lebanon? What are the expected scenarios? 

The War Option

Lebanese researcher and political writer Dr. Assem Abdulrahman stressed that the fears related to an Israeli war in Lebanon aren't immediate but emerged when the Palestinian factions carried out the ’Aqsa Storm‘ operation in the Israeli settlements around Gaza and the subsequent bloody Israeli response, represented in its ongoing operation ’Iron Swords‘. 

Abdulrahman told ’South24 Center‘ that “Hezbollah's engagement in clashes with Israel as part of the front supporting Hamas has caused divisions in the Lebanese street. This has stirred concerns about an Israeli widescale retaliatory response that may include an open war.”

However, he has ruled out the possibility of the outbreak of war. He believes that the Israeli threats to do so are apparently an attempt to escape the big failure of the Israeli army in Gaza. He added: “Israel can't open a new fighting front. It knows how to start these fronts but it is aware of its path and ramifications.”

Egyptian political analyst Abdulmajeed Hassan agrees that Israel isn't currently in a situation that allows it to begin a war with Hezbollah.

He told ’South24 Center‘: “Israel fears expanding the war on the Northern front in light of its inability to resolve the Gaza war till now. Tel Aviv fears expanding the war toward Hezbollah as the latter is the strongest Iranian agent, in terms of armament and capabilities.”

However, Lebanese political analyst Tariq Abu Zainab doesn't conceal his concerns about the possibility of an outbreak of war. He told ’South24 Center‘ that “the development of the security situation in the south of Lebanon threatens further deterioration.”

He added: “While Hezbollah doesn't want to engage in an open war with Israel, it links its operations to the developments in Gaza. Meanwhile, Israel and the United States separate the Lebanon file from Gaza’s, believing that what is happening in south Lebanon has nothing to do with the developments in the Palestinian strip.”

According to him, “the circulated conditions and articles of the American negotiations don’t address the Gaza war. They are related to Lebanese affairs and include demanding the full implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution No. 1701 and the retreat of Hezbollah to behind the Litani River in south Lebanon.”.

Abu Zainab believes that the Lebanese caretaker government, chaired by Najib Mikati, “is lacking in taking the peace and war decisions. It hasn’t also opposed the opening of the southern front by Hezbollah or the latter’s threats to Cyprus if it helps Tel Aviv in a likely war.”

On June 29, Prime Minister Mikati urged Israel to stop its attacks against his country during his visit to south Lebanon, according to the Lebanese National Agency. 

Regional Scope

If the war flares in Lebanon, its expansion to become a regional war is possible. This is enhanced by threats and statements by Iranian leaders and Tehran-backed militias in the region that work as part of the so-called ‘Axis of Resistance’.

On July 1, the ’Islamic Resistance in Iraq’, which is the official name of a coalition of Shiite Iraqi militias affiliated with Iran, threatened to escalate their military operations against American interests in Iraq and the region if the Israeli forces launch a war on Lebanon.

Abdulmajeed Hassan believes that the occurrence of this scenario may “push the United States to intervene in the confrontation in order to support Israel and defend its interests and forces in the region”.

During June, the Iran-backed Houthi militia announced the launching of several joint attacks with the Iraqi faction against targets in the Israeli Port of Haifa and vessels in the Mediterranean.

The Houthis have threatened moving to new stages of their maritime military campaign that has targeted vessels in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Recently, they allegedly carried out attacks in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.

On July 2, British newspaper ’Financial Times‘ cited Kamal Kharrazi, foreign policy advisor to Iranian Leader Ali Khamenei, as saying that Tehran “would use ‘all means’ to back Hezbollah if Israel launches a full-blown war against it”.

The Iranian official warned that “there would be a chance of expansion of the war to the whole region, in which all countries including Iran would become engaged. In that situation, we would have no choice, but to support Hezbollah by all means”.

On April 14, Iran launched a barrage of 300 direct drone and missile attacks on Israeli territories, in response to the killing of two senior officials of the ’Revolutionary Guard‘ in an Israeli air raid on the Iranian Embassy in Damascus at the beginning of that month. 

The Iranian attacks didn’t cause noticeable damages as the American, British and Israeli defense systems in the region shot down most of the attacking missiles.

On June 28, a report by “Middle East Eye” said that US officials are concerned that the Israeli offensive on Hezbollah could drag Russia toward the conflict and could further incite Iran's allies in the region in addition to cementing Tehran's military cooperation with Moscow.

The report added that the fears of what current and former US officials described to Middle East Eye as "secondary" and "tertiary" effects of an Israeli ground attack on Hezbollah are being driven by US intelligence that claims Russia is considering stepping up its support for Iran's so-called Axis of Resistance.

’Middle East Eye‘ quoted a US official as saying that “Russian President Vladimir Putin has considered providing Houthi rebel fighters with anti-ship cruise missiles.”

According to the report, Putin proposed the plan during his visit to the UAE and Saudi Arabia in December last year. However, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman intervened to stop Putin from doing so, according to US intelligence.

Over the past period, the Houthis have promoted the idea of their alliance with China and Russia against the United States. They have held meetings with Russian officials, the latest of which was in Moscow on July 2 with Mikhail Bogdanov, Putin’s Special Representative for the Middle East and Africa. 

On June 27, Russia and China abstained from voting for the UNSC Resolution No. 2739 which called the Houthis to stop attacks against commercial vessels and international navigation. Moscow has repeatedly condemned the American-British strikes against the Houthis in Yemen.

However, Moscow and Beijing also condemned the Houthi attacks against commercial and civil ships and asked for ceasing them. Moreover, observers have ruled out Russia supporting the Houthis with weapons or any other direct support.

Regarding the Arab stance, Abdulmajeed Hassan said that Egypt, in particular, “seeks to avoid the region being dragged into an expanded war. Therefore, it has intensified its discussions with its partners (Qatar and the US) to reach a ceasefire agreement in Gaza”.

According to him, the calculations regarding regional issues may change if the war flares, top of which is the Yemeni file. The latter's political path has been frozen after the Houthi involvement in targeting commercial vessels since November 2023, and the exchange of confrontations with the American and British forces.

In late 2023, the Saudi and Omani attempts to establish a bilateral agreement with the Houthis reached an advanced level. This was despite the fact that some parties in the internationally-recognized Presidential Leadership Council have had reservations about the so-called “roadmap”, especially as the PLC was excluded from drafting it.


Abdulmajeed Hassan warned that expanding the war to Lebanon “will extend the conflict area to Iraq and Yemen. This is due to the links between Iran's arms and Hezbollah. This puts some Arab states under the danger of a comprehensive war over the coming period”.

He added: “With the growing American support to Israel in the event of a war, the region may slide into an open war which may last for several years.”

Despite ruling out this scenario, Assem Abdulrahman believes that any war on Lebanon will open several fronts against Israel as fighters will flock from all directions. He added: “Thousands of Palestinian refugees and hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians as well as fighters from Yemen and Iraq will find themselves in the heart of the battle”.

He explained that “accordingly, this war will mix between the resistance against Israel and the political interests of some parties, especially in light of the Iranian-Israeli competition over exerting influence and control in the region. Thus, Lebanon will enter a whirlpool of military violence and political chaos, paving the way for the establishment of a new order, based on the new power balance.”

Over the past nine months, Hezbollah has lost about 360 fighters due to the attacks launched by the Israeli army. The Israeli attacks included using drones to hit houses, cars, and farms inside south Lebanon.

The Israeli side has also incurred losses among its soldiers and people. On June 30, Tel Aviv announced that an Israeli soldier was severely injured and 17 others were slightly wounded after an explosive drone landed in the northern area of the Golan Heights.

Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the attack, adding that it had launched several drones.

On Thursday (July 4), the Israeli army announced the killing of a battalion deputy commander during fighting on the northern front. It added that Hezbollah had launched more than 200 missiles and 20 drones toward the north of Israel and the Golan Heights. It described the Hezbollah operation as being “a massive barrage” of shells.

These developments reveal a dangerous situation in Lebanon that opens up all possibilities over the coming days.

Journalist at South24 Center for News and Studies

Edited by:
Jacob Al-Sufyani, Director of the Regional Office of the South24 Center in Aden

Note: This is a translated version of the original text published in Arabic on June 22, 2024.

YemenHouthisIsraelLebanonHezbollahMiddle EastPLCHamas