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Lebanese opinion inches to war after Israeli hospital strike

Lebanese opinion inches towards war with Israel after Gaza hospital strike
MENA
3 min read
18 October, 2023
"At first, I was thinking we could live in peace, but after what we saw yesterday with the hospital strike, this idea left my head. I support Hezbollah in this war," Abu Bashir, a resident of the Beirut neighbourhood of Tariq al-Jadeedah, told TNA
Demonstrators wave Palestinian and Hezbollah flags in the southern suburbs of Beirut in protest of Israel's strike on Baptist hospital on 17 October, which left at least 471 dead. [William Christou - TNA].

Demonstrations were held across Lebanon on Wednesday as pro-Iran group Hezbollah called for a 'day of rage' in protest of the Israeli strike on the Baptist Hospital in Gaza, which killed at least 471 people.

Thousands of people gathered in Dahiyeh, Beirut's southern suburbs, waving Palestinian flags, while protesters attempted to storm the US embassy but were held back by Lebanese security forces.

Israel claims that the hospital strike was caused by an errant missile launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but Palestinian officials have rejected this narrative. Notably, Israel does have a history of striking hospitals, schools and shelters and committing other violations of international law and fundamental norms of war. 

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Speaking at the rally, the head of Hezbollah's executive council, Hashem Safieddine, condemned the massacre caused by the Israeli strike and blamed US President Joe Biden for supporting Israel.

Safieddine said his group was "thousands of times stronger than before," warning Israel and its Western allies not to make a "mistake" in the coming days. 

"We are all with you, Gaza!" the crowd chanted as Safieddine spoke.

While condemnation of Israel's assault on Gaza, which has killed over 3,500 people, has been nearly universal, most Lebanese have said they do not want to be dragged into a war with Israel.

But the scenes of bloodshed that emerged from the reportedly Israeli strike on the Gaza hospital on Tuesday, 17 October, has made some Lebanese more eager for war.

"At first, I was thinking we could live in peace, but after what we saw yesterday with the hospital strike, this idea left my head. I support Hezbollah in this war," Abu Bashir, a resident of the Beirut neighbourhood of Tariq al-Jadeedah, told The New Arab.

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Hezbollah has been engaged in a steadily escalating tit-for-tat rocket exchange with Israel on the two countries' shared border for the past ten days, killing 13 Hezbollah and at least one Israeli fighter.

The Lebanese militia has stopped short of saying it will join Hamas in fighting against Israel, with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah conspicuously absent since clashes began.

"We are all waiting for what Nasrallah will say. I'm not with Hezbollah, but I'm with anyone who will help take their rights from Israel. After the hospital attack, I believe 100 per cent we need to open [a second] front with Israel," Nana, a store owner in Tariq al-Jadeedah who only gave her first name, told TNA.

The Lebanese state has been noticeably absent from public discourse over whether Lebanon should fight a war with Israel.

On Saturday, Lebanese caretaker PM Najib Mikati said that "he could not get assurances from any party" involved in the conflict.

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A group of independent lawmakers signed a petition on Tuesday that said while they are "on the side of the Palestinian people," they reject Lebanon being "dragged towards destruction" through a war.

Iran, Hezbollah's backer, has warned that if Israel were to launch a ground invasion into Gaza, it would use "all resistance forces" in the region against Israel.

Israel had announced its intentions to launch a ground invasion this weekend but delayed the operation, reportedly due to US pressure.