How Hezbollah Became a Critical Player in the Israel-Hamas War
November 8, 2023 | by b1og.net
In the Israel-Hamas war, Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese militia, has emerged as a critical player. With its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, making a highly anticipated speech, the region held its breath, wondering if Hezbollah would fully engage in the conflict or continue with limited exchanges of fire. Since the outbreak of the war, Hezbollah has been trading fire with Israeli troops along the border, but the fear is that the conflict will escalate and draw in regional powers. Nasrallah’s speech acknowledged these concerns but stopped short of committing to a more active role. This article explores why Hezbollah and its leader are key players in the trajectory of the Israel-Hamas war, highlighting their history, relationship with Iran, and the delicate balancing act they must maintain.
Hezbollah’s Background and History
Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim group, was founded in 1982 during Lebanon’s civil war. Its initial objective was to end Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon, which it achieved in 2000. The group was the first that Iran invested in to export its brand of political Islamism. Over the years, Hezbollah has evolved into Lebanon’s most powerful political and military actor, supported by Iran. It has faced domestic criticism for maintaining its arsenal and dominating the government.
Formation and Objectives
Hezbollah was formed during Lebanon’s civil war with the objective of ending Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon. It achieved this objective in 2000, becoming the first group supported by Iran to successfully export its brand of political Islamism.
Support from Iran
Hezbollah receives significant support from Iran, which has helped it consolidate its position as Lebanon’s most powerful political and military actor. Iran’s support has also enabled Hezbollah to maintain a sizeable and sophisticated arsenal.
2006 War with Israel
In 2006, Hezbollah and Israel fought a monthlong war after Hezbollah fighters ambushed an Israeli patrol and took two Israeli soldiers hostage. The war ended in a draw, but Hezbollah emerged as a stronger entity, both politically and militarily. Israel’s objective at the time was to eliminate Hezbollah, but instead, the group grew in strength and became a key political party in Lebanon.
Hezbollah’s Leader: Hassan Nasrallah
Hassan Nasrallah, born in 1960 into a poor Shiite family in Beirut, became Hezbollah’s leader in 1992 after his predecessor was killed in an Israeli strike. Nasrallah is considered one of the most powerful political figures in Lebanon and is idolized by many for leading the 2006 war and presiding over Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon. He is known for his pragmatism and ability to make political compromises. Nasrallah has lived in hiding for years, fearing Israeli assassination, and delivers his speeches from undisclosed locations.
Hezbollah’s Strength and Arsenal
Hezbollah is the Arab world’s most significant paramilitary force and possesses a robust internal structure and a sizeable arsenal. It is estimated to have an arsenal of 150,000 precision-guided missiles. Hezbollah has sent forces to Syria to support President Bashar Assad against opposition groups, and it has also supported the growth of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, Yemen, and Syria.
Involvement in Syria and Iraq
Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria and Iraq has bolstered its position as a key player in the region. By supporting Assad in Syria and Shiite militias in Iraq, Hezbollah has expanded its influence and capabilities beyond Lebanon’s borders. This involvement has solidified Hezbollah’s alliance with Iran and its reputation as a significant force in the fight against regional adversaries.
Hezbollah’s Relationship with Hamas
Hezbollah’s relationship with Hamas is based on pragmatism rather than shared ideology. Hamas, a Palestinian militant group founded in 1987, initially had limited support from Iran and Syria. However, a schism emerged between Hamas and the Iranian-backed axis over the Syrian civil war, where Hamas backed Syria’s opposition fighters. Despite these differences, relations between Hezbollah and Hamas have improved in recent years.
Hamas Background and Support
Hamas was founded as an offshoot of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood movement and initially had limited political and financial backing from Iran and Syria. However, in recent years, Hamas has returned to the Iranian fold, putting it in a tricky situation due to its previous support for Syria’s opposition.
Differences over the Syrian Civil War
A major point of contention between Hezbollah and Hamas emerged during the Syrian civil war when Hamas backed the largely Sunni opposition fighters in Syria. This divergent stance strained the relationship between the two groups, as Hezbollah supported the Assad regime alongside Iran. However, despite these differences, relations have improved in recent years.
Improved Relations in Recent Years
Despite the differences over the Syrian civil war, Hezbollah and Hamas have seen improved relations in recent years. Many top Hamas officials have moved to Lebanon, where they have Hezbollah’s protection and a presence across Palestinian refugee camps. This improved relationship has allowed for increased cooperation and coordination between the two groups.
Hezbollah’s Role in the Israel-Hamas War
Hezbollah has been involved in limited exchanges of fire with Israeli troops along the border since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. While they have not fully joined the fight, Hezbollah’s support for Hamas and its continued pressure on Israel’s northern border have played a significant role in the conflict.
Limited Exchanges of Fire with Israel
Hezbollah has engaged in limited exchanges of fire with Israeli troops along the border since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. These exchanges have resulted in casualties for both sides. However, the fear is that the conflict may escalate and spiral into a regional fight.
Balance between Involvement and Staying on the Sidelines
Hezbollah faces a delicate balancing act in the Israel-Hamas war. On one hand, fully entering the conflict could risk dragging Lebanon, already facing economic calamity and internal political tensions, into a conflict it cannot afford. On the other hand, staying on the sidelines as Israeli troops take control of the Gaza Strip could compromise Hezbollah’s credibility.
Support for Hamas while Keeping the Threat Open
Hezbollah’s support for Hamas in the Israel-Hamas war is crucial for maintaining its credibility and influence in the region. By keeping the threat of its full involvement open, Hezbollah sends a message to Israel and the international community that it stands with Hamas and is ready to step in if necessary.
Nasrallah’s Speech and Hezbollah’s Position
Expectations were high for Hassan Nasrallah’s speech during the Israel-Hamas war. Nasrallah addressed concerns about Hezbollah’s involvement in the conflict, stating that Hezbollah had already entered the battle on October 8. However, he stopped short of announcing a full commitment to the war.
Confirmation of Hezbollah’s Involvement in the War
Nasrallah’s speech confirmed Hezbollah’s involvement in the Israel-Hamas war, highlighting the group’s limited exchanges of fire with Israel along the border. By acknowledging their participation, Hezbollah maintains its support for Hamas while keeping the threat of further escalation open.
Importance of Hezbollah’s Credibility
For Hezbollah, maintaining credibility is crucial in the Israel-Hamas war. Staying on the sidelines entirely could compromise their reputation and alliance with Hamas. Nasrallah’s speech reaffirmed Hezbollah’s commitment to supporting Hamas while carefully navigating the risks of full involvement.
Delicate Balancing Act
Hezbollah faces a delicate balancing act in the Israel-Hamas war. They must support Hamas and maintain their credibility while avoiding a wider conflict that could destabilize Lebanon further. Nasrallah’s speech and Hezbollah’s measured involvement demonstrate their cautious approach to the war.
The Potential Impact of Hezbollah’s Full Involvement
Hezbollah’s full involvement in the Israel-Hamas war carries significant risks and potential consequences. These include the potential for a wider conflict, increased domestic opposition, heightened pressure on Israel, and the readiness of Hezbollah for a full-scale involvement.
Risks of Wider Conflict and Domestic Opposition
If Hezbollah fully enters the Israel-Hamas war, the risk of a wider regional conflict increases significantly. This could lead to further destabilization in the already troubled Middle East region. Additionally, Hezbollah could face increased domestic opposition due to Lebanon’s economic crisis and political tensions.
Support for Hamas and Pressure on Israel
Hezbollah’s full involvement in the Israel-Hamas war would provide significant support for Hamas and increase pressure on Israel. Hezbollah’s sophisticated arsenal, along with its military expertise, would bolster Hamas’s capabilities in its fight against Israel.
Readiness for Full Involvement
Hezbollah has been carefully considering its readiness for full involvement in the Israel-Hamas war. While they have not made the decision to fully engage, they are prepared for that possibility if the situation escalates to a point where their intervention becomes necessary.
Uncertainty and Future Outlook
The future outlook regarding Hezbollah’s role in the Israel-Hamas war remains uncertain. The duration of Hezbollah’s balancing act, Israel’s determination to crush Hamas, and the potential collapse of Gaza all contribute to the uncertainty surrounding the conflict.
Duration of Hezbollah’s Balancing Act
It is unclear how long Hezbollah can maintain its delicate balancing act in the Israel-Hamas war. As the conflict continues and the death toll in Gaza rises, the pressure on Hezbollah to either escalate or fully withdraw from the conflict will intensify.
Israel’s Determination to Crush Hamas
Israel’s determination to crush Hamas poses a challenge for Hezbollah. If Israel’s offensive in Gaza escalates, Hezbollah may face increasing pressure to intervene fully in support of Hamas. However, a full-scale involvement could risk a wider conflict that Hezbollah may not be ready to take on.
Potential Collapse in Gaza and Full Involvement
If the situation in Gaza deteriorates further and reaches a point of full collapse, Hezbollah may be compelled to fully involve itself in the conflict. This would mark a significant escalation and could have far-reaching consequences for the region.
In conclusion, Hezbollah’s role in the Israel-Hamas war is crucial and carries significant risks and potential consequences. While the group has engaged in limited exchanges of fire with Israel, it has not made a full commitment to the war. Hezbollah’s delicate balancing act aims to support Hamas while navigating the risks of a wider conflict and maintaining credibility. The uncertainties surrounding the conflict and its potential impact on the region make the future outlook uncertain. As the situation evolves, Hezbollah’s role and potential for full involvement will continue to be closely watched.