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Will Israel’s Beirut Drone Strike Escalate Into All-Out War?

Updated: May 23

On January 2, as the holidays were coming to an end, an explosion shook Lebanon's Capital Beirut's Hezbollah-controlled southern suburb of Dahieh. A drone strike hit a building in a residential area, resulting in the death of Senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri and six others, including civilians. 


On an official level, Israel denied responsibility for the attack. However, it was seen by the Lebanese prime minister Najib Mikati as a "new Israeli crime". Hamas and Hezbollah released statements after the incident in which they mentioned the potential for an imminent response. 


The attack marked the first direct Israeli strike on Beirut since clashes began between Hezbollah and Israel on October 8, 2023. Furthermore, it is marked as a provocation on the "rules of engagement", one of the main rules of which was to limit the battle to the border areas between Lebanon and Israel. 


As a result of this observation, many local and international actors are concerned that the conflict might escalate as the risk is deemed too high. Some countries, such as Germany and Canada, called for their citizens in Lebanon to leave the country and are providing charter flights for evacuation. 


This is not the first time that this rate of panic has loomed over the country after major events. In many instances, things escalated beyond or did not lead to the results people expected. As much as there are factors that contribute to fueling tensions, there are others that are stopping the conflict from exceeding its current limit. The more Israeli attacks pressure Hamas, the more Hezbollah is expected to act. 


On the other hand, the Israeli government is keen to dismantle Hamas, and internal political tensions might lead Netanyahu to launch an offensive on Israel's northern border in a show of power aimed at presenting him as Israel's security guarantor. 


Since the beginning of the clashes, it was apparent that the military responses of both sides were happening in the form of a tit-for-tat strategy. The clashes have obscured under-the-table diplomatic talks between the United States and Iran, both of which sponsor rival sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict. None of the major players are keen to see an escalation since further escalation means a regional war. Each would have a lot to lose after investing heavily in the region to maintain their respective power. 


A day after the attack in Beirut, Hezbollah's Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah held a speech in which he condemned the killing of Saleh Al-Arouri and hinted that the group would likely retaliate at the right time and the right place, a phrase that the audience indeed got used to. However, violently retaliating would be the catalyst for an all-out war. 


Nevertheless, the tone of the speech is reminiscent of many others, and it did not appear to contain any new rhetoric. Therefore, Hezbollah is expected to maintain its strategic patience, which relies heavily on diplomatic factors. 


This security incident is not enough to guarantee a full-scale war, as the propaganda machines want to show, as a lot would be at stake for all players, especially when the world is facing significant economic challenges. If the situation turns down a darker road, the conflict will likely take the form of controlled chaos; in other words, a short period of heavy clashes in order to 'improve' negotiations. 

Image: Yam914

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