Israel and Hezbollah have not engaged in an outright military confrontation since the 34-day devastating war in the summer of 2006, but a fresh conflict is possible, with regional tensions running high.
Maj-Gen. Amir Baram, the head of the Israeli Defence Forces’ (IDF) Northern Command, has warned that Lebanon would pay a heavy price in case of a new armed conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.
“We will continue to act to thwart its [Hezbollah’s] efforts to threaten our security, covertly and overtly as required, and if war is imposed on us, we will exact a heavy price from this organisation and those who give it backing, wherever necessary,” the military commander said on Tuesday at a memorial dedicated to the 13th anniversary of the 2006 Lebanon War.
Amir Baram went on to say that Hezbollah remains loyal “to the supreme leader in Iran, not to the citizens of Lebanon”.
“As a direct result, the Lebanese state is liable to pay a heavy price for its cooperation with Shi’ite terrorism in the next campaign,” he was quoted as saying by The Jerusalem Post.
Baram also accused Hezbollah of violating the UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the war between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia and political party.
He claimed that Hezbollah “continues to consolidate power in southern Lebanon” and is “building infrastructure of terrorism and rockets” near the border with Israel, in violation of the resolution.
Tel Aviv alleged last year that Hezbollah was setting up observation posts along the Israeli border, but the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, which monitors activities in the area, said it had observed no unauthorised armed persons in the area.Incidentally, Baram’s intimidatory speech came just hours before a drone appeared to have infiltrated Israel from Lebanese territory, forcing the IDF to scramble jets. The military decided not to shoot the drone down and it returned back soon. Israel has not provided any information on who they believe operated the drone.
Israel and Hezbollah, a militarised Shi’ite political group which currently holds several posts in the Lebanese government, fought a brief war in the summer of 2006 which ended in a stalemate.
Tel Aviv has repeatedly claimed that Hezbollah – whose primary goal is the destruction of the Jewish state – is a proxy of Iran and that it receives weapons and equipment from Tehran, which the latter denies.
Apart from bombing alleged Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria, Israel has recently cracked down on a tunnel network that Hezbollah constructed under the Lebanese border with a presumed goal of sneaking into Israeli territory.
The construction of the tunnels began before the 2006 war, but some of the tunnels remained intact until recently. In December, the IDF launched a month-long operation to seek and destroy the cross-border structures. In mid-January, the military said they found the last, sixth underground tunnel and announced the end of the operation.