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Israel Violence Crosses Border into Lebanon

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Israel shelled a village in southern Lebanon on Thursday after explosions were heard in a disputed border area, raising fears of a multi-front escalation between ­Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza.

Tensions are high after Israel conducted a deadly two-day military operation in the occupied West Bank earlier this week that killed 12 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier. Another Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian gunman near the settlement of Kedumim on Thursday.

The incursion into Jenin refugee camp, which involved drone strikes and heavy construction vehicles, marked a more aggressive Israeli approach in the West Bank since a rise in violence last year. By confiscating weapons and arresting terrorism suspects in the operation, the Israeli military said it aimed to make it easier to operate in Jenin in the future.

Analysts say security forces will need to be on alert for attacks elsewhere inside Israel or coming from beyond its borders by Iran-backed militant groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The chances of escalation are higher than before, but it is hard to predict when that may happen, said Mairav Zonszein, a senior analyst for Israel-Palestine at the International Crisis Group.

“The multi-front stuff that you’re seeing is bound to continue and Israel is limited in what it can do,” she said. “Israel doesn’t really have an effective strategy for dealing with a lot of these threats.”

Already this week, there has been a car ramming and stabbing attack in Tel Aviv, two shootings in Jewish settlements in the northern West Bank, a salvo of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip and an apparent cross-border strike from southern Lebanon. At least seven civilians were injured.

On Thursday, the Israel ­Defence Forces said it had targeted an area next to the town of Ghajar where it had determined an attack was launched into Israeli territory. The IDF said that after assessing the shrapnel, it was found to be “an anti-tank missile”.

The border with Lebanon suffered an unusual burst of violence in April, when Israel carried out airstrikes against Palestinian militant groups it said had fired dozens of rockets. And last weekend, Israel carried out airstrikes near the Syrian city of Homs after an anti-aircraft missile exploded over Israeli territory.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is going through one of its deadliest periods in years, coming amid an apparent rise in Israel’s shadow war with Iran. The Islamic Republic backs militant group Hezbollah, which has a strong presence in southern Lebanon, as well as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which have historically been ­active in Gaza but more recently have built out extensive support networks in the West Bank.

Since the start of the year, more than 150 Palestinians, mostly militants but also children and elderly civilians, have been killed by Israeli forces and civilians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to Palestinian and Israeli officials. More than 20 Israelis and foreigners, nearly all civilians, have been killed by Palestinian ­attackers, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres on Thursday accused ­Israel of using disproportionate force against Palestinian groups in the Jenin operation and warned against escalating the violence.

“There was an excessive force used by Israeli forces,” Mr Guterres said in New York.

Israel has “legitimate concerns over its security,” he said, adding: “But escalation is not the answer. It simply bolsters radicalisation and leads to a deepening cycle of violence and bloodshed.”

The threats come as Israel faces domestic turmoil over the government’s proposals to exert more political control over the­ ­judiciary and the continuing ­expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Scores of military reservists have said they won’t volunteer for duty should the legislation on the judiciary pass, while the settlement activity displaces more Palestinians who are increasingly turning to individual acts of violence outside the framework of organised groups.

Since its 2006 war with Israel, Hezbollah has expanded its ­arsenal from about 11,000 to 130,000 missiles, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank, estimated in 2021.

Article link:
Article source: The Australian / Wall Street Journal | Stephen Kalin| 8.7.23

2024-02-22 05:36:48.000000

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