A Careful Dance How Hezbollah and Israel Have Kept the Lid on a Wider War

Set to a peppy electronic soundtrack, A Careful recent video clip showed what the Hezbollah militia said was a missile-firing drone, a new weapon in its arsenal as it ratchets up its strikes on Israel. Flaunting a new weapon is the type of muscle flexing that Hassan Nasrallah, the organization’s elusive leader, crows about. “What protects you is your strength, your courage, your fists, your weapons, your missiles and your presence in the field,” he said in an address earlier this year. smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc smc

Hezbollah’s attacks, which started last October in A Careful solidarity with Hamas in the Gaza war

Have gradually intensified as the group uses larger and more sophisticated weapons to strike more often and deeper beyond the border between Israel and Lebanon. Israel, too, is hitting targets farther into Lebanon.

The latest surge by Hezbollah came this week, with a series of daily drone strikes by the militia hitting some civilian targets well into Israel. Senior officials starting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stoked their rhetorical threats against Hezbollah, suggesting that a day of reckoning was close at hand.

Yet whenever the fighting escalates, both Hezbollah and Israel seem to calibrate their tit-for-tat attacks so that no strike starts a larger conflict. While concerns about a wider war remain, both sides appear hamstrung in different ways that force restraint.

The video clip — released by Hezbollah’s military media office in May — illustrates how in some ways, the group has never been stronger. Its main patron, Iran, has supplied an increasingly powerful range of missiles. Plus Hezbollah gained valuable battlefield experience after years of deploying what is believed to be at least 2,500 special forces troops in Syria to help shore up the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

But Hezbollah is not just a fighting force; it has evolved into a broader Lebanese political movement that must weigh dragging the whole country into another war as the conflict-weary population continues to stagger through an extended economic crisis.
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ImageFighters holding projectile launchers and on motorbikes that are parked in a militaristic formation. A crowd stands in front of them.
Hezbollah fighters demonstrating their readiness for confrontation with Israel in a training exercise held on the eve of a national holiday that commemorates the end of Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon.
Women mainly dressed in all black and holding a small portrait of Ebrahim Raisi.
Hezbollah supporters watching a televised speech by Hassan Nasrallah, the group’s leader, during a tribute to Ebrahim Raisi, the former Iranian president, in the southern suburbs of Beirut, last month.
The violence at the border has already cost billions of dollars in tourism and agriculture revenue, Lebanese officials say. The last war, in 2006, left a path of devastation across the country, displacing at least one million people. Arab states and Iran helped pay for reconstruction. It is unclear whether they would do that again, and countless Lebanese have since fallen into poverty as the value of the pound has plummeted from 1,500 per dollar to 89,000.

Hundreds of thousands displaced

Since October, about 100,000 Lebanese civilians have been displaced along the southern border. Many are farmers, who, with harvests aborted, eke by on a $200 monthly subsidy from Hezbollah. Questioning of why the Gaza war should involve Lebanon is widespread.

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Khodor Sirhal, 60, a farmer from the border village of Kafr Kila, sells olive oil soap at Souk El Tayeb, the market where Beirut hipsters flock every Saturday for organic produce. He described how last October, he and his wife were harvesting olives when intense explosions nearby forced them to flee to Beirut, where they remain.

“If you ask me why this war happened, I don’t have an answer,” he lamented. He was not sure whether his house or the long-dreamed-of cafe that he opened in the village a week before the fighting erupted was still intact.

One small business owner forced to abandon about 100 jars of olive oil among other goods said the Hezbollah officials he had questioned cannot explain why Lebanon should involved. “They either speak in poetry or in predictions,” he said, declining to give his name out of fear of retribution. “They themselves do not have an answer.”


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