Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :
Hanna Saleh

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Is This The Start of a Destructive War?

Reports from the South show that the town of Blida has become a small Gaza, as have the towns of Kafrkila, Aitaroun, Ayta, and others. The enemy’s wanton assault on Lebanon has turned them into scorched earth as it strives to impose a security belt through its strikes. Nonetheless, the "Al-Akhbar" newspaper and everything it represents believes that "Hezbollah" has taken the fight to "enemy territory,limiting its options"... "Israel’s escalation remains calculated and contained!”
With the escalation taking worrying dimensions, every Lebanese citizen is anxious, not just those who reside in the south, Hasbaya, and Arkoub. The scope of Israel's "surgical" strikes is expanding, and its threats are becoming increasingly severe, leaving Lebanon in an unprecedentedly perilous position, as slight miscalculation could open the gates of hell.
Despite the magnitude of the threat, what remains of the country's authorities have been silent. Rather, after having been coopted by Hezbollah and its axis, they are complicit. They are ignoring the demands of the overwhelming majority that opposes war, and overlooking the fact that no one besides these authorities supports the decision to link the South to Gaza and instigate a "mini war" to rattle the enemy.
The intransigence and obsolescence of officials' responses to the foreign delegations negotiating the implementation of UN Resolution 1701 have been astonishing. This resolution is a safeguard that protects the south and ensures peace in Lebanon, and the authorities refuse to acknowledge the provisions prohibiting the presence of arms and armed individuals in the areas where UNIFIL operates. Some even reiterate Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri's quip that "Moving the (Litani) river to the border would be easier than keeping the party away from the river"!
Israeli leaders have threatened Beirut. Their forces have targeted the town of Ghazieh, just south of Saida, and the town of Jadra in the Chouf, which is 30 km away from the capital. However, these developments did not receive the attention they deserve, despite Tel Aviv refusing the idea of applying any agreement regarding Gaza to Lebanon.
In fact, we are seeing affirmations of the broadly held view that, as the brutal war the Zionists are waging on Gaza winds down, the enemy will be able to focus on the northern front, that is, on South Lebanon. Yoav Gallant, the Israeli Minister of Defense, has explicitly said so. All these threats have fallen on deaf ears, with Lebanon's authorities seemingly dissociating and behaving as though dragging the south into a conflict does not demand their concern. They have handed the reins to Hezbollah, which is committed to serving Iran's agenda. Meanwhile, their talking heads and mouthpieces have stuck to their discourse. Insulting the intelligence of the Lebanese, they claim that Israel's threats and actions "including the threat of extreme options, are intended to strengthen the push for a diplomatic solution, while the preludes to a total war have yet to take shape!”
Rest assured, everything is under control. There will be no total war! Accordingly, "the party" has rejected the proposals of France, as "it has not lost, so why concede?" For their part, the authorities have not given a response because Hezbollah wants "to negotiate with the people in charge, the Americans." They are waiting for Hochstein to put forward a solution that suits the "party's" plans of ensuring its control over Lebanon by putting all key appointments on hold and linking them to developments in the south...
They are assured by the thought that if the conflict aggravates, the settlers would not be able to return to their homes. This is a dangerous and reductionist assumption, and it is on this premise that they argue that a return to the pre-October 8, 2023 status quo is possible. These assumptions disregard the unequivocal warnings of foreign governments, such as David Cameron's announcement from Beirut that a truce in Gaza would not guarantee an end to Israel's operations against Lebanon and France's warning that Netanyahu has Ariel Sharon's 1982 plan to execute an Israeli invasion, up to the Awali River north of Sidon, is on his desk!
Last Monday, Israel seriously escalated its attacks on Hezbollah and its officials: Israel launched air strikes deep into Lebanon, destroying targets east of Baalbek near the border with Syria, as well as the "Tell al-Jurmuk," which is near Jezzine. A drone killed a Hezbollah field commander near Tyre, in an operation that the Israelis claim is part of their "strategy to destroy the field structure (of Hezbollah)."
All of this paints a clear picture for the Lebanese. Israel's assault has become comprehensive, and the reality on the ground does not align with the expectations of the Axis of Resistance. Most alarmingly of all, the authorities have turned a blind eye to the fact that the expansion of the war to areas deep inside Lebanon would have far worse repercussions than those of the 2006 war!
Almost five months into the campaign "distract" the enemy was launched from the South, under the pretext of "supporting" Gaza, Israel has imposed its war of something akin to total war. It has taken the initiative, crossing the red lines that we kept hearing about. It has shown that the narrative of deterrence and "rules of engagement" is empty. Neither the rocket barrages on the outskirts of Shebaa Farms or the Golan, nor the empty settlements of Galilee, have not convinced anyone of the contrary. While they show that Hezbollah can inflict material damage on Israel, the repercussions of a war for Lebanon are incomparable.
Since October 7th - after the genocide in Gaza witnessed by the entire world and Israel explicitly laid out its plans for a massacre in Rafah - it has become clear that Israel is distancing itself from the stances of the United States, which continues to support Israel anyway. Limits that had been in place for decades are being disregarded, and the American administration will not apply serious pressure the year of a presidential election.
The suffering that has befallen the Lebanese does not end with their country's function becoming to serve Iranian objectives through Hezbollah, to ensure Western acceptance of the mullah regime's influence in Lebanon and the region. The hostility of what remains of Lebanon's authorities toward the Lebanese people, the national interest, and the security of the citizens, is another key component of our tragedy.
Because of this hostility, the authorities have overlooked significant indications that the Zionists' assaults equate to total war. Among the indicators is Israel's decision to postpone the return of the settlers to July 7th. Moreover, before this decision was announced, in an address to the Security Council, Israel held responsible for violating resolution 1701 Lebanon, which essentially lays the diplomatic groundwork for the expansion of the war northward. Another worry is that there is broad public support in Israel for a fully-fledged war on Lebanon that would see strikes deep inside the country, after the towns along the border were turned into scorched earth, a security belt Israel has forged with fire!