The latest round of clashes between Israel and Hezbollah has left three dead — two Israeli soldiers and a Spanish UN peacekeeper. According to the BBC, Hezbollah militants launched the antitank missile attack in response to an Israeli air strike that killed six fighters and an Iranian general in the Syrian Golan Heights just under two weeks ago.
The ambush led to 24 hours of Hezbollah attacks launched from Syria and Lebanon toward the Israeli border. In response, Israel launched airstrikes as a stay of defense. It is currently unknown whether Israeli or Hezbollah fire resulted in the UN peacekeeper's death, but Israeli Defense Forces told CNN they will be investigating. United Nations forces in Lebanon confirmed the attack saying it "observed six rockets launched toward Israel" on Wednesday morning, and that Israel "returned artillery fire in the same general area."
Israel is not taking the recent attack lightly. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is administering a serious tone, stating publicly that the attackers will "pay the full price." Israel’s UN ambassador, Ron Prosor, said in a letter addressed to the UN Security Council and Secretary General Ban Ki Moon:
Israel will not accept any attacks on its territory and it will exercise its right to self-defense and take all necessary measures to protect its population.
This border area between Israel and Lebanon has had few incidents since 2006, when Israel and Hezbollah fought a 34-day war, killing 120 in Israel and approximately 500 in Lebanon. Naturally, there is concern that the violence will continue to escalate with both parties stepping up military engagement in recent days. But will this violence amount to a full-scale war? According to Ayham Kamel and Riccardo Fabiani of political consultancy company Eurasia Group, that doesn't seem likely:
Netanyahu most likely realizes that a prolonged military engagement in Lebanon could cost him the election ... Instead, Israel will pursue limited actions targeting Hezbollah in Lebanon, but the low-scale, tit-for-tat exchanges will not broaden into a wider war.
Although analysts don't believe that larger scale conflict will result from the recently traded fire, it is nonetheless concerning to see tensions arise in the unstable region — particularly as the civil war in Syria spills across its borders. This new wave of violence reminds us that years of relative calm doesn't ensure continued stability and that the region faces serious challenges in curtailing violence from militant groups.
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