Israel's military has issued a new assessment which estimates it has launched attacks on some 3,000 Hezbollah sites in Lebanon in Syria since war started after Oct.7. Military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari says that while Israel is nothing seeking a bigger war in Lebanon, it is "certainly ready" and that the defense forces (IDF) are ready to "attack immediately if provoked."
Hezbollah has been hitting back on a daily basis too, with villages and communities on both sides of the border being impacted, and in some cases resulting in civilian casualties. When Israel hits targets in Syria, it tends to describe these as "Iran-linked", which often means Hezbollah.
Israel now says that time is running out for diplomacy as the two sides spiral toward bigger war. "Israel has said, though, that it’s prepared to open another front with a military attack on southern Lebanon if Hezbollah doesn’t move back to about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the border, as per the terms of a long-standing United Nations resolution," according to Bloomberg.
We reported in December that Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has estimated that over 80,000 Israeli citizens are still displaced from their homes, after border regions had to be evacuated en masse as a result of Hezbollah attacks since Oct.7.
At the time it was reported that "The Israelis are anticipating within the next six weeks to two months that if the diplomatic track isn't working, they're going to have to opt for some kind of military solution." Israeli leaders have been reiterating this message this week.
"Israel will act militarily to return the evacuated citizens to their homes" if Hezbollah doesn't comply with the demand for a buffer zone, according to Monday statements of Foreign Minister Israel Katz.
Israel is further demanding that the Lebanese government take action, but this has already been rejected in a fresh Tuesday statement:
Lebanese caretaker Foreign Minister, Abdallah Bou Habib, voiced on February 6 the nation’s rejection of recent Israeli and international demands seeking to push Lebanese resistance group, Hezbollah, north of the Litani River, saying Beirut will not accept ‘partial solutions’ to resolving the cross-border conflict.
“Western countries demand the retreat of Hezbollah for about eight to ten kilometers north of Litani,” Bou Habib said in an interview with Nida al-Watan. “This is a formula that Lebanon rejects. [Beirut] will not accept ‘partial solutions’ that do not bring the desired peace and do not secure stability but will lead to the renewal of the war again and again.”
But in reality even if the Lebanese government wanted to try and force Hezbollah away from the southern border it would not be able to do so. The Lebanese Army has long had a very limited arsenal, and really no air force to speak of, due to sanctions and limitations imposed by Washington.
Hezbollah is widely considered to be stronger than even the Lebanese state's army, and a weak army is largely the legacy of the prior two-decade long Lebanese civil war. But if Israel and Hezbollah enter a full, uncontrollable war, the entirety of Lebanon is likely to be impacted and bombed by Israeli warplanes, as happened to some degree in the 2006 war.
Meanwhile, there appears to be a rare positive development on Tuesday, per Newsquawk: "US and four European allies hope to announce in the next few weeks a series of commitments made by Israel and Hezbollah to diffuse tensions and restore calm to the Israel-Lebanon border, according to two Israeli officials and a source cited by Axios."