Regional media is reporting that since midnight, and after President Biden departed Israel yesterday, Israeli forces have intensified their strikes across the Gaza strip, starting with Rafah, which according to Al Jazeera killed 33 people.
There are reports that Biden in private comments told Netanyahu he has a "green light" from Washington to launch a fuller offensive, at a moment Israeli media continues to report a ground incursion is "imminent".
At this point the greater danger, from Tel Aviv's perspective, is the growing strikes from across the northern border from Lebanon. Border skirmishes with Hezbollah have grown, as the group has in the last 24 hours launched at least nine rockets, triggering sirens across Israeli towns and settlements.
Already, an evacuation order is in place for dozens of the communities closest to the border. The IDF has responded with artillery targeting Hezbollah units at presumed launch sites.
According to The Times of Israel:
Shortly before the rocket sirens, the IDF said one of its tanks shelled two anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) launch positions in southern Lebanon, where the military identified an attempt to carry out an attack.
A third ATGM launch site was struck following a missile attack on the northern town of Metula.
And in a Thursday update, the IDF said that some 20 rockets have been fired from Lebanon at northern Israel. The statement said that at least one was intercepted while many more fell in open fields.
Given Hezbollah's capabilities, which includes tens of thousands of rockets as well as manpower and technology which far surpasses Hamas', the conflict is still very 'limited'. The US, UK, and Israel has been issuing stern warnings and threats against Hezbollah joining the fight.
The US embassy and other foreign embassies in Beirut are keeping a close eye on the situation. Already, the US is reducing its non-emergency personnel.
The US State Department is now telling Americans to leave now, while there's still a chance ahead of potential escalation in Lebanon:
The US and British embassies in Beirut advise their citizens to leave Lebanon while flights “remain available” as border tensions between Israel and Hezbollah intensify.
Both countries had already warned citizens against travel to Lebanon.
“We recommend that US citizens in Lebanon make appropriate arrangements to leave the country; commercial options currently remain available,” a US embassy statement says.
I arrived in Lebanon today to report on pro-Palestinian protests and rising tensions in south Lebanon.— Dimitri Lascaris (@dimitrilascaris) October 18, 2023
Hours ago, soldiers clashed with pro-Palestinian protesters near the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.
My full report will be posted on https://t.co/dNYCgOngvv.#Gazagenocideشاركونا pic.twitter.com/aJlsBd9RKv
The British Embassy too has told its citizens: "If you are currently in Lebanon, we encourage you to leave now while commercial options remain available." The new advisory added, "British nationals should exercise caution and avoid areas where demonstrations may be held."
If a major Israel-Hezbollah conflict does open up, it's likely that Beirut's international airport could be the first to be bombed by Israeli strikes, as happened in 2006. This is the main way out of Lebanon, the other more difficult path being boats or ferries to nearby Cyprus.
An Israel-Hezbollah war could also likely spread to more Israeli attacks on Syria, given also the Syrian Army has already bombed the Israeli occupied Golan Heights in "solidarity" with Gaza.