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Israeli Officials’ Latest Comments Indicate Middle East Powder Keg May Be On Verge Of Blowing Up

Top Israeli officials are warning that Israel is ready to take dramatic action against an increasingly aggressive Hezbollah, raising the specter of a conflict that could further unbalance an already chaos-ridden Middle East.

Israel’s primary military focus over the last year has been destroying Hamas, the terrorist group that invaded Israel on Oct. 7 and killed roughly 1,200 people. But conflicts between Israel and Hezbollah have escalated in recent weeks, prompting Israeli officials to declare that Israel is reaching a crossroads — one that could include “very intense action,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.

“Whoever thinks he can hurt us and we will respond by sitting on our hands is making a big mistake,” Netanyahu said on Wednesday. “We are prepared for very intense action in the north. One way or another, we will restore security to the north.”

While all-out war between Israel and Hezbollah may not be immediate, tensions between the two sides have ratcheted up in recent weeks with an increase in attacks.

Netanyahu’s comments come the same day as a gunman opened fire on the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon, prompting a swift response from security forces. Six people, including the gunman, were arrested in connection to the attack; one Lebanese guard was injured in the shooting but no one was killed.

It is not immediately clear whether the criminals are tied to Hezbollah or what their motives were in the attack, but U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Wednesday that the shooter was wearing “what appeared to be ISIS insignia,” though a full investigation has yet to be completed.

Miller noted that the U.S. is “incredibly concerned” about the Israel-Hezbollah standoff along Israel’s northern border.

“It is an untenable situation for Israel right now,” Miller told reporters during a press briefing on Wednesday.

Hezbollah is one of many Iranian-backed groups located throughout the Middle East and arguably the most militarily capable. Israeli forces and Hezbollah have been engaged in low-level skirmishes since Oct. 7 out of support for Hamas, with both sides launching aerial attacks or engaging in ground firefights across the Israel-Lebanon border.

But there has been a spike in hostilities in recent weeks, officials from both camps say; Hezbollah has increased its drone and missile launches against Israeli military installations, while Israel has similarly ramped up attacks against forces and senior group leaders in southern Lebanon, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“This uptick, like what Hezbollah succeeded in doing since Oct. 7, is to drive home the point that the Israeli national psyche internalized after that date — just because the threat is quiet on the border does not mean that threat has gone away,” David Daoud, senior fellow on Middle Eastern affairs at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “And Hezbollah’s threat to Israel is an implacable one.”

Hezbollah rocket attacks this week set off massive fires in northern Israel, consuming hundreds of acres of land, destroying houses and infrastructure and prompting a massive containment response from the Israelis. While examining the fallout of the fires on Tuesday, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Major General Herzi Halevi said that Israel is approaching a crossroads with Hezbollah, according to the Times of Israel — signaling a shift in how the country will deal with the terrorist group going forward.

“We are approaching the point where a decision will have to be made, and the IDF is prepared and very ready for this decision,” Halevi said. “We are prepared after a very good process of training – up to the level of a military exercise – to move to an attack in the north. Strong defense, readiness to attack, we are approaching a decision point.”

This sentiment was echoed by other senior Israeli officials this week. War cabinet minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday that Hezbollah will be dealt with by Sept. 1, warning that Israel “can’t lose another year” of allowing the terrorist group to attack, according to The Times of Israel. National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir took it a step further, declaring Tuesday that Hezbollah needed to “burn” and Israel needed to launch a “war,” per the WSJ.

A full-scale war with Hezbollah Israel could create a “level of destruction that will be unprecedented in Israeli history,” former deputy national security adviser in Israel Chuck Freilich told the WSJ on Wednesday.

“In the event that an all-out war breaks out, the Israeli front will absorb a volume of fire it has not ever been seen – including what was seen in 2006 (referring to the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war),” Tal Beeri, head of research at the Alma Institute, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

Israel could try and strike a ceasefire deal with Hezbollah, something that the U.S. and international mediators have been negotiating for months, according to the WSJ. The deal would demarcate the Israel-Lebanon border and require Hezbollah to move further north so it couldn’t launch attacks or a full-scale invasion.

But Hezbollah has said that it would not commit to a ceasefire deal until Israel halts all military operations in Gaza, which Netanyahu has said will not happen until Hamas is defeated entirely, according to the WSJ. Hezbollah has also long threatened it would invade Israel and seek its destruction, which is the group’s primary goal.

And such a deal would have to be accepted by the Lebanese state — which has little ability to contain Hezbollah — making such a solution likely unattainable, Daoud told the DCNF.

“This leaves Israel the option only really of acting militarily because there are no alternatives. And it would be hard for me to imagine that the Israeli government did not recognize this on some level months ago,” Daoud said. “They understand that any diplomatic solution that’s going to rely on the Lebanese state, either for enforcement or guarantees, is a non-starter. And that leads you to the military solution.”

For the time being, both Israel and Hezbollah are calibrating their responses to avoid such a conflict. The Israeli War Cabinet, headed by Netanyahu, convened on Tuesday to discuss the Hezbollah threat in the wake of the fires started by the group’s recent attacks.

“Both sides are preparing and ready if something will happen,” an Israeli Air Force intelligence officer told the WSJ.

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