Tension is mounting on Israel’s northern front, mainly with Lebanon where a show of force by Hezbollah led to panic in Tel Aviv.
On May 21, the Iran-alienged group held a military exercise at the southern town of Mleeta, which is located some 20 kilometers away from the front.
Hezbollah fighters conducted tactical maneuvers during the public small-scale exercise and later showcased heavy weapons, including multiple rocket launchers, anti-tank guided missiles, man-portable air defense systems and combat drones.
Hezbollah’s media relations official, Muhammad Afif, said that the exercise was held to celebrate the Resistance and Liberation Day as well as to send a message to Israel.
The exercise led to a state of panic in Tel Aviv. On May 22, Military Intelligence Directorate chief Aharon Haliva assessed that Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah was “close to making what he called a “mistake” that “could spark a regional war, while warning that the conflict between Israel and Iran was becoming increasingly direct.
Speaking at a conference hosted by the Institute for Policy and Strategy of Reichman University in Herzliya, Haliva said “the chances of an escalation that could deteriorate into war is not low,” and that, as far as Nasrallah is concerned, a recent flareup on the Israel-Lebanon border may not be over.
Haliva also warned Syrian President Bashar Assad, another ally of Iran, was growing increasingly confident, noting his inclusion at the Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia last week after a 12-year absence and a recent drone attack launched from Syria.
On May 23, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) dropped leaflets over southern Lebanon, the heartland of Hezbollah, warning people against approaching the front. The move further demonstrated the panic in Israel after Hezbollah’s show of force.
Some tensions were also reported on the front with Syria. On May 24, Syrian gunfire targeted a IDF drone that was operating over the Golan Heights front, in an unusual incident.
The IDF said that the drone was conducting “routine surveillance activity” when it was targeted by light gunfire, adding that the vehicle managed to land safely without sustaining any damage. Israeli main battle tanks returned machine gun fire at the area in southern Syria where the gunfire was detected.
The situation on Israel’s northern front will likely remain unstable for the long term. However, a confrontation remains highly unlikely. The IDF could, however, escalate operations against both countries under the pretext of fighting Iranian influence.
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