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Israel-Hezbollah Conflict: A Tinderbox Threatening Wider Middle East War

Israel-Hezbollah Conflict

Will the exchange of fire between Israel and Iraq trigger a larger-scale war in the Middle East? Let’s first understand the key “ruthless actor,” Hezbollah

WASHINGTON — The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, supported by Iran, has raised concerns about the potential for a wider regional war in the Middle East. Tensions between Israel and Iran have escalated, with retaliatory strikes being carried out, while Hezbollah continues to pose a significant threat to Israel with its well-equipped military and arsenal of missiles.

The complex dynamics between these parties, along with the involvement of other regional actors, have created a volatile situation with the potential for a full-scale conflict that could have devastating consequences for the region.

Key Concepts

  • Ongoing conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon
  • Tensions escalating between Israel and Iran
  • Potential for wider regional war in the Middle East
  • Hezbollah’s origins in the Lebanese Civil War
  • Hezbollah’s anti-Israel stance and support from Iran
  • Hezbollah’s military capabilities and arsenal
  • Hezbollah’s involvement in conflicts with Israel and support for Assad in Syria
  • Challenges faced by Hezbollah in Lebanon’s economic crisis
  • Hezbollah’s role in hindering anti-corruption investigations in Lebanon
  • Complex dynamics between Israel, Hezbollah, and the United States
  • Biden administration’s stance on Israel’s conflicts with Hamas and Hezbollah
  • There are concerns about a full-scale conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in the region.

Since Hamas launched an attack on Israel on October 7 last year, concerns that the conflict between Israel and Kazakhstan may expand into a full-scale war in the Middle East have never dissipated. After Israel and Iran carried out “tit for tat” retaliatory strikes last week, such concerns have intensified, especially whether the long-term medium-to-low-intensity conflict between the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon and Israel will further escalate, thereby engulfing the Middle East in a wider scope The flames of war?

The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah has never stopped

Since a new round of conflict broke out between Israel and Kazakhstan, the exchange of fire between Israel and Hezbollah has never stopped. On October 8, the day Israel began its air strikes in Gaza to counterattack Hamas, Hezbollah fired missiles into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, claiming it was in “solidarity” with Hamas. Just on Saturday (April 21), Israel launched an air strike in southern Lebanon, killing at least three Hezbollah members.

In a central square in Tehran Iran Iranian demonstrators holding flags of Iran Palestine and Lebanese Hezbollah held a rally in solidarity with Palestine
In a central square in Tehran, Iran, Iranian demonstrators holding flags of Iran, Palestine, and Lebanese Hezbollah held a rally in solidarity with Palestine

“We have to deal not only with Hamas in the south but also with Hezbollah in the north,” Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer told US media in February this year.

The direct exchange of fire between Iran and Israel in the past week has made the world sweat again. Although both Israel and Iran intend to downplay Israel’s pre-dawn air strikes in Iran on April 19 and do not want to see the situation escalate into a full-scale regional conflict, the Middle East is still filled with many unstable factors.

Middle East experts have been warning of the possibility of war between Israel and Hezbollah since the war in Gaza began last year, and some even said that this war is becoming inevitable. They believe that although Iran and Hezbollah do not seem to want to be involved in a full-scale war, they will not allow Israel to completely defeat Hamas.

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The international community is watching with bated breath the turbulent situation in the Middle East. Let us first understand the role of Hezbollah, which affects many people.

Hezbollah, Iran’s most powerful proxy in the Middle East

  • Hezbollah—Arabic for “Party of God”—wields enormous power in Lebanon. It is a Lebanese Shia Islamist organization that is both a political party and an armed group.
  • Hezbollah is Iran’s most powerful proxy organization in the Middle East. Iran has long provided weapons, military training, and financial support to Hezbollah.
  • Hezbollah uses force to counter Israeli and Western influence in the Middle East. Western countries, such as the United States, and Sunni Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia, consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization.


Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) established Hezbollah in 1982 during the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990) to combat Israel’s occupation of Lebanon at the time and as a branch of Iran’s influence in the region.

History background

  • Lebanon is the only country in the Arab world where Christianity, Sunni Islam, and Shia Islam coexist and are governed by decentralized powers. However, this has also led to serious religious strife within Lebanon. The Shiite community has long felt marginalized by the Lebanese government and has the least rights. Since the 1970s, a political and armed movement has emerged in Lebanon to fight for the rights of Shia Muslims.
  • At the same time, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) took root in southern Lebanon after being expelled from Jordan in 1970 and used it as a military base to attack Israel with force. As a result, Lebanon has been subject to constant retaliation from Israel. The arrival and military operations of the PLO have further intensified the already rising religious conflicts and interest struggles within Lebanon. The 15-year Lebanese Civil War broke out in 1975.
  • In 1979, the Islamic Revolution, led by Shia religious scholar Ruhollah Khomeini, overthrew the Pahlavi dynasty of Iran and established the theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran. Khomeini’s ambitions were not limited to Iran. He hoped to spread the revolutionary ideas of Iranian Shiites to the entire Middle East. The chaos in Lebanon and the struggle among Lebanese Shiites provide opportunities for Iran.
  • In 1982, Israel, which wanted to take advantage of the chaos to eradicate the armed forces of the Palestine Liberation Organization, invaded southern Lebanon. After defeating the PLO forces, Israel chose to continue its presence in southern Lebanon. This became a perfect opportunity for Iran to support the Shia political armed movement in Lebanon. To repel the Israeli army in southern Lebanon, Iran provided weapons, combat training, and funds to this Shia political and armed force in Lebanon, and the Lebanese Hezbollah was born.
  • Abbas al-Musawi, a Khomeini follower and Lebanese Shiite religious scholar, became the founder and general secretary of Hezbollah. After Mousavi was killed by an Israeli fighter jet in 1992, his close confidant Hassan Nasrallah took over and has been the leader of Hezbollah ever since.

The Rise

At the beginning of its establishment, Hezbollah was kept secret until it issued its founding declaration in 1985, which stated that its main mission was to eliminate the State of Israel and expel Western forces (the US and French troops who were performing peacekeeping missions in Lebanon at the time) from the Middle East.

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Hezbollah’s anti-Israel and anti-Western fighting methods at the time included suicide bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations. One of its bloodiest attacks, backed by Iran, was the suicide car bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon in April 1983, which killed 63 people. In October of the same year, Hezbollah also used car bombs to attack residential areas of US and French members of the Multinational Force in Lebanon, killing 241 US soldiers and 58 French soldiers.

  • In 1990, the Lebanese civil war ended. But Hezbollah refused to disarm and said it would continue to fight Israel. It opposes the Middle East peace talks with force and advocates the elimination of Israel and the recovery of Arab territories occupied by Israel in its eyes. It also began to have political ambitions to establish an Islamic republic in Lebanon, emulating Iran.
  • In 1992, Hezbollah won seats in the Lebanese parliamentary election and became the largest opposition party in Lebanon. It gradually became the political leadership force of the Lebanese Shia group, claiming to represent their voices and wishes in the Lebanese government and fight for their rights and interests.
  • In 2000, Israel withdrew its troops from southern Lebanon, and Hezbollah’s guerrilla war against Israel was widely seen as a major factor. Hezbollah has since gained actual control of the area, but has never stopped attacking targets in Israel.
  • Since 2005, Hezbollah figures have successively assumed the role of ministers in various departments of the Lebanese government. Their influence has spread throughout the Lebanese executive and legislative bodies, firmly occupying a dominant political position in Lebanon.
  • Its dual role as an armed group and as a political party is unique in Lebanon, but it is also controversial, with some people criticizing Hezbollah for involving Lebanon in a bloody war.

Military Activities And Scale

  • Hezbollah has a powerful and well-equipped army, and its military strength is generally considered to exceed that of the Lebanese National Army. With strong support from Iran, Hezbollah possesses sophisticated military equipment such as advanced missile systems, drones, and anti-tank weapons.
  • Hezbollah leader Nasrallah says the group has 100,000 fighters, but the true number is a mystery. The CIA estimates that Hezbollah will have approximately 45,000 combatants in 2022, including approximately 20,000 full-time and 25,000 reservists.
  • According to an assessment by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a US think tank, Hezbollah possesses 120,000–200,000 short-range guided ballistic missiles, short- and medium-range unguided ballistic missiles, and short- and long-range rockets.
  • Hezbollah continues to clash with Israel, especially the 34-day all-out war with Israel in 2006. The flashpoint of that war was when Hezbollah crossed into Israel and kidnapped two Israeli soldiers as hostages to force Israel to exchange prisoners with them. Israel counterattacked and the “July War” broke out. Hezbollah, backed by Iran, fired thousands of rockets at Israel during the conflict. The war killed about 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and 158 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
  • Hezbollah has also participated in the Syrian Civil War, supporting the Assad regime and thereby further improving its armed combat capabilities.

Social Services: “National China”

Hezbollah provides a variety of social services in Lebanon, especially in the Shia-dominated south, including hospitals, schools, and infrastructure. These efforts have won it substantial grassroots support, helping it maintain its base in Lebanon’s complex sectarian political landscape. Today, Lebanon’s severe economic crisis poses certain pressure on Hezbollah. According to 2023 statistics from Human Rights Watch, 80% of Lebanese currently live below the poverty line.

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Corruption is rife in Lebanon’s politics, but Hezbollah’s protection makes anti-corruption investigations difficult. For example, on August 4, 2020, ammonium nitrate that had been improperly stored in a warehouse in the Port of Beirut exploded for a long time, killing more than 200 people, injuring more than 7,000 people, destroying 77,000 apartments, and displacing more than 300,000 people.

At least 300,000 people were displaced. 80,000 children are homeless. However, there has been no progress in the investigation of the explosion, and no official has been discredited. Among them, Hezbollah forces were accused of obstructing the investigation. Hezbollah supporters once took to the streets to resist a judge investigating the matter.

The Specter of an all-out conflict between Israel and Hezbollah still hangs over the Middle East

According to a Reuters report on April 16, six months of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah have forced more than 80,000 residents on Israel’s northern border to flee their homes, and 18 Israelis, including soldiers and civilians, have died. As for Hezbollah, At least 240 combatants and 68 Lebanese civilians were killed, and 90,000 people in southern Lebanon were displaced.

Many analysts believe that Iran does not want Hezbollah to consume its arsenal unless it is to prevent Israel or the United States from attacking Iran. Some former Israeli intelligence personnel also said that the Israeli military has no intention of going to war with Hezbollah. The Israeli military prefers to focus on the Gaza front rather than drag in Hezbollah, a more formidable enemy than Hamas.

The Joe Biden administration in the United States firmly supports Israel in defeating Hamas on the Gaza issue, but it also clearly reminds Israel that it must avoid a full-scale war with Hezbollah to avoid triggering a war in the Middle East. But the possibility of a full-scale conflict between Israel and Hezbollah still looms over the Middle East.

“Israel faces a dilemma,” reads a CSIS report assessing the possibility of war between Israel and Hezbollah. “It could risk going to war with Hezbollah, but in the process, the war would expand in scope, making the current war in Gaza look like a minor conflict. Israel could also choose to wait, which would avoid going to war with Hezbollah now. But this could risk more serious conflicts in the future, where adversaries will have better weapons and capabilities and be able to control the timing of war to their advantage.”

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