Israel 'ready' for all-out war with Hezbollah as US calls for calm amid Gaza talks

Israel 'ready' for all-out war with Hezbollah as US calls for calm amid Gaza talks
The Lebanese-Israeli front has witnessed huge escalations in recent days, with Hezbollah's rocket fire prompting calls in Israel for an all out war on Lebanon.
4 min read
05 June, 2024
There are fears that escalation between Israel and Hezbollah could lead to a full-blown war [Getty]

The Israeli army is "ready" to attack Hezbollah in Lebanon and is close to deciding on a course of action, the military's chief of staff threatened on Tuesday, as the US reportedly pressured Israel to hold off any attack before a truce for Gaza is reached.

"We are approaching the point where a decision must be made, and the Israeli army is very prepared for this decision," Herzi Halevi said in remarks to the Golani Brigade after fighting sharply intensified with Hezbollah in recent days.

Halevi said his army was ready to escalate operations on the Lebanese frontier, adding: "We have a strong defence and a willingness to attack, and we are approaching a decisive point."

Far-right Israeli ministers have called for a full-scale attack against Hezbollah, having also used incendiary bombs in Lebanon's south destroying crops and buildings.

"It is time for Lebanon to burn," said National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, as forest fires raged through northern Israel on Monday and Tuesday as a result of rockets and drones launched by Hezbollah.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said Israel should bomb Beirut, "the capital of terrorism".

Israeli Prime Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday echoed Halevi’s threats, saying that the Israeli army was "prepared for a very intense operation" along the border, as he visited northern Israel to inspect areas scorched by the fires.

Hezbollah and Israel have traded cross-border fire since October last year in parallel with the war on Gaza, the most intense fighting between the two since the 2006 summer war.

Israel has frequently struck deeper into Lebanese territory while Hezbollah has used more sophisticated weaponry to target deeper into northern Israel.

Over 450 people in Lebanon, mainly fighters but also children and journalists, have been killed. Israel says 14 of its soldiers and 11 civilians have died, but Hezbollah believes the toll to be higher.

Tens of thousands of people on both sides of the border have been displaced.

Israeli settlers have urged their government to take decisive action against Hezbollah so that they can return home, and many are in support of an invasion of south Lebanon.

'Stretched capabilities'

Officials in the Israeli war cabinet said the military must shift its weight to the north, and Netanyahu is expected to "make difficult decisions", as reported by Israel’s Channel 13.

"A major operation in the north will have serious consequences for our capabilities in Gaza," Channel 13 quoted an unnamed official as saying.

Mediated negotiations being led by the US and France are trying to broker a ceasefire agreement between Hezbollah and Israel to end the months-long fighting.

The deal would eventually see Lebanon and its southern neighbour end a land border dispute, although Hezbollah has refused to lay down its arms before a ceasefire in Gaza is achieved.

Former Israeli defence minister and current war cabinet member Benny Gantz set a timeframe to end the hostilities, without explaining the reason behind the date he set.

Live Story

"September 1 is the date for changing the reality in the north. This will happen either through normalisation or through escalation – but it is impossible [for us] to lose another year" living like this, he said.

Gantz stressed Israel’s priorities should be to help residents of northern Israel return home and to bring back captives being held in Gaza.

"It won't be easy, it will cost money, and it will hurt, but it is the right thing to do," he added.

'No Lebanon war before Gaza deal'

The US State Department on Tuesday warned of the "dangerous" situation on the Lebanon-Israel border, adding that Washington was "working to contain it".

According to a report by the Israeli Kan broadcaster, the US called on Israel to avoid escalation with Hezbollah before completing a prisoner swap deal with Hamas in Gaza.

Washington’s request this time for restraint in south Lebanon comes as "we are days away from reaching a possible deal" to release captives in Gaza, Kan quoted one of its correspondents as saying.

A possible Gaza ceasefire deal could impact the situation in northern Israel and lead to a ceasefire with Hezbollah, Amichai Stein told the Israeli broadcaster, and perhaps a longer-lasting political settlement with Lebanon.

The US has been reluctant to see Israel wage war with Hezbollah, calling for calm since the beginning of cross-border clashes. US-mediated talks resulted in a landmark deal between Lebanon and Israel in 2022 which saw the enemy states demarcate their maritime borders.

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati denied reports on Tuesday that the UK warned Beirut of an imminent Israeli attack in June. Britain also denied the reports.