June 12, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

Hezbollah’s escalations challenge ‘terror equation’ in North

The Hezbollah rocket fire can be seen as part of the “equation” of terror attacks by the Iranian-backed group.
June 12, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

Hezbollah’s escalations challenge ‘terror equation’ in North

The Hezbollah rocket fire can be seen as part of the “equation” of terror attacks by the Iranian-backed group.

Hezbollah carried out its largest escalation in this war on Wednesday, launching rockets and drone attacks that reached as far south as the Sea of Galilee.

This escalation can be seen as part of the “equation” of terrorist attacks by the Iranian-backed group. Hezbollah generally claims to be “responding” to Israeli attacks. In this case, heavy barrages came after the IDF eliminated Hezbollah commander Taleb Abdallah, the highest-ranking one to be killed since the group began its attacks on Israel on October 8 in solidarity with Hamas’s war on Israel.

However, Hezbollah does not always respond. This is clear, given that it also launched rockets on Tuesday evening as Shavuot began. The Lebanese-based terrorist group knew that Israelis were gathering for a holiday. So, it is very calculative when it comes to how and where it attacks.

Hezbollah does not just fire rockets randomly. Furthermore, it chooses the type of weapon for its attacks. It stated this in its press releases to the media, saying it used “appropriate” weapons for its type of mission.

What it means by “appropriate” is up for debate. The group has increasingly resorted to using drones to attack Israel. It has also increased its use of anti-tank fire along the border. These are precision weapons, unlike many of the rockets the group usually fires.

Hezbollah expands Golan attack range

Hezbollah has also expanded the area of attacks. For instance, it has launched more attacks on the Golan Heights and has fired deeper into that region than in the past. It also sends drones out to sea and then uses them to threaten Israel’s coastal cities such as Haifa, Kiryat Bialik, Nahariya, and other areas near Acre. Hezbollah is slowly expanding this envelope.

One can interpret this in several ways. This may be a form of what artillery officers used to call “walking it in”: you aim your fire toward a location, observe where it falls, and then slowly increase the range or trajectory of your cannon to “walk” the shots closer to the enemy.

This type of barrage can also slowly “roll” over a landscape, suppressing adversaries while troops advance. Obviously, Hezbollah is not doing this yet as a cover for an advance, as Hamas did when it used rocket fire to cover its attack on October 7.

Hezbollah is doing something different. It is slowly “walking” its attacks south of the line of contact along the border.

Another way of seeing this is that Hezbollah and Israel are engaged in a cycle of attacks. This has a kind of feedback-loop quality to it. In other words, each side attacks the other and each then responds with an escalation when the other escalates.

For example, Hezbollah will usually carry out deeper attacks in Israel after it claims Israel carried out deeper attacks in Lebanon. It also changes the “quality” of the target it strikes, such as targeting the air traffic control center at Mount Meron.

There is a third way of seeing this type of conflict: as an “equation.” Prior to October 7, Hezbollah and Israel had a kind of equation. Generally, this meant that Hezbollah did not attack inside Israel, and Israel did not attack inside Lebanon.

However, Hezbollah operated in Syria, where Israel was carrying out a “campaign between the wars” against Iranian entrenchment. Sometimes, the terrorist group’s members were killed in Syria. However, Syria was seen as a free-for-all.

Hezbollah and Israel had this equation up until the maritime deal of 2022. That is when Hezbollah threatened war if Israel did not sign a deal that the US had backed. Jerusalem caved in and agreed to the deal.

Hezbollah responded with provocations, seeking to move tents and threaten border areas around Ghajar. Its goal here was to test Israel and show that its threats could achieve wins.

After October 7, the equation changed. Hezbollah and Iran now say that whenever there is a conflict in Gaza, Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies will “unite the arenas” and will all join a war against Israel.

This is what the Houthis have done in Yemen. The new equation means that Hezbollah is tied to the other fronts, and now claims it has a right to attack parts of Israel.

However, it does not carry out attacks too deeply inside Israel because of the new equation, where both Israel and Hezbollah avoid too much escalation. This is bad news for average people in Israel and Lebanon who have had to flee.

Israel has largely come to accept this “new normal.” It is now normal for Hezbollah to rain rockets down on the North. This would never have been acceptable in the past and would have led to a major war.

However, Israel is focused on Gaza, and it seems that Hezbollah has rewritten the rules. It is unclear if the Jewish state will ever seek to change this situation. In the end, it appears now that Hezbollah will increase its attacks when it wants, and this will put more Israelis into shelters.

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.

Issues:

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