Israel and the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah in southern Lebanon drew closer to war Monday as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was set to arrive in Israel on Monday evening.
Over the weekend, Hezbollah had launched a rocket attack on an Israeli base on Mount Meron, in northern Israel — a serious escalation of its attacks.
In return, Israel attacked a Hezbollah command post in southern Lebanon, killing a major commander, reportedly Wissam al-Tawil (or “Jawad”) of the “elite” Radwan force.
Israel has warned Hezbollah for weeks not to open a second front in the war, as it battled Hamas terrorists in Gaza. As the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has dismantled more and more of Hamas’s military capabilities, Hezbollah has faced more pressure to act.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his government’s warnings to Hezbollah, the Times of Israel reported:
In the northern city of Kiryat Shmona, Prime Minister Netanyahu tells IDF reservists that Israel prefers to restore security in the area without going to war with Hezbollah, but that it is ready to do so.
“Hezbollah got us wrong in a major way in 2006, and is getting us seriously wrong even now,” he tells soldiers from the 769th Regional Brigade.
“Of course, we prefer that this be done without a widespread campaign, but that will not stop us,” says the prime minister. “We gave them an example of what is happening to their friends in the south; this is what will happen here in the north. We will do everything to restore security.”
The U.S.S. Ford, one of two aircraft carriers dispatched by U.S. President Joe Biden to the eastern Mediterranean to deter Iran from opening a second front, reportedly left the region last week — which may have opened the door to the ongoing escalation.
Blinken is seeking regional support for a deescalation in the conflict and an agreement on the post-Hamas future in Gaza.