February 14, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

Deadly rocket attack in North shows Hezbollah undeterred

Hezbollah believes it has impunity to attack Israel and has launched more than 2,000 rockets at Israel.
February 14, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

Deadly rocket attack in North shows Hezbollah undeterred

Hezbollah believes it has impunity to attack Israel and has launched more than 2,000 rockets at Israel.

Deadly rocket fire targeting northern Israel on February 14 illustrates that Hezbollah is not deterred and is escalating attacks on Israel, seeking to target communities deeper inside the country. Israel evacuated 80,000 people from northern communities in early October because of Hezbollah attacks.

Hezbollah believes it has impunity to attack Israel and has launched more than 2,000 rockets at the Jewish state. Rockets fired by the Iranian-backed terrorist group wounded a woman and her son on February 13. So far, there has been no attempt to massively deter and prevent Hezbollah’s attacks. Instead, Israel prefers precision and proportional response.

Hezbollah gambled in early October that it could attack Israel with impunity and that Israel, focused on the war against Hamas, would not be willing to start a two-front war. Indeed, this is not the Israel of 1967 or 1973, when it successfully defeated multiple conventional armies on multiple fronts in a week or two of fighting, despite many obstacles. Today Israel is focused on Gaza and the slow, grinding conflict there.

It is a conflict in which there has been no decisive victory so far. However, the IDF has said it believes the campaign in Gaza is successful, given the complexity of the fight in urban terrain with tunnels underground, and has exceeded expectations.

Watching and waiting

Hezbollah has been watching Israel’s responses closely. It knows that Israeli leaders have vowed to alter the situation in the north. What this means is that Israel has vowed to return residents to their homes and end the rocket fire that Hezbollah carries out daily. However, Hezbollah has not been deterred so far.

It has lost around 200 of its members to Israel’s retaliatory fire. But 200 members is apparently a number Hezbollah is willing to sacrifice. In addition, Hezbollah knows that proposals have been delivered to Beirut begging Hezbollah to remove a few hundred fighters from the border and make a tacit symbolic withdrawal, so as to quiet the tensions in the north.

Hezbollah, like Hamas, has closely followed how to embed itself in the civilian population and tunnel under villages in southern Lebanon. Like Hamas, it uses civilians as human shields and has created an empire of terrorist infrastructure in southern Lebanon.

As with Gaza, the international community enabled this. A UN resolution that helped end the 2006 war was supposed to prevent Hezbollah from saturating the border with rockets and bunkers. Instead, Hezbollah has been put on steroids since 2006, and has exponentially expanded its arsenal. In Lebanon, Hezbollah has also expanded its political role and has come close to controlling the state itself.

As such, Hezbollah is now a very large organization with a lot on its plate. It was goaded into attacks on Israel after October 7. It has generally targeted areas close to the border. This has led to a kind of concept. So long as Hezbollah only rains down missiles within a few kilometers of the border, then Israel will respond with precision strikes by artillery and warplanes. It’s a kind of gentleman’s agreement of how to wage this new normal war. As long as casualties are relatively low, apparently this is fine.

Hezbollah has been slowly escalating, to test the redlines. In January, it targeted Safed and Meron and it didn’t feel a major increased response. Now, it has targeted Safed again, a day after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Hezbollah had rejected a French proposal to reduce tensions. Nasrallah claimed that “hundreds of thousands” of “settlers” would not return to the north unless the Gaza war ends.

Hezbollah calls Jews in Israel “settlers,” the same language Hamas uses and the same language that led Hamas to October 7. Northern Israel is now clouded with the same concept that Gaza was clouded with on October 6, a concept that portrays Hezbollah as manageable and one where Hezbollah gets to decide where to attack and when to attack and place the lives of civilians in the North at risk.

Seth Frantzman is the author of Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machine, Artificial Intelligence and the Battle for the Future (Bombardier 2021) and an adjunct fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


Hezbollah Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Military and Political Power