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Monday, July 15, 2024

Israeli president threatens war on Hezbollah

As fighting in Gaza continues, a second front looms in the north

The world should not be surprised when Israel responds to “terrorism” from the north, President Isaac Herzog has said, suggesting that West Jerusalem is preparing to escalate the conflict with the Lebanon-based Hezbollah.

Herzog brought up Lebanon at Wednesday’s ceremony in Jerusalem, which marked the 57th anniversary of Israel taking control of the entire city during the 1967 conflict with Egypt, Syria and Jordan.

Read more: Israel bombs ‘Hamas compound’ in Gaza school

“I turn from here to the international community and its leaders and stress – one cannot remain indifferent to this terrorism, from Lebanon or anywhere,” Herzog said. “The world needs to wake up and realize that Israel has no choice but to protect its citizens and it should come as no surprise when it does so – strongly and ever more resolutely.”

Herzog claimed that Israel has been attacked “by Iran’s proxies in Lebanon” on a daily basis and that now was not the time to stand by and allow things to escalate.

“This terrorist aggression must be stopped,” he said.

Earlier in the day, two drones launched by Hezbollah struck the town of Hurfeish, near the border with Lebanon, killing a reserve Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier and injuring ten more people. The group also claimed to have struck an Iron Dome missile defense site in Ramot Naftali, using a guided missile. The IDF said it could not confirm this.

Read more: Around 80 hostages still alive in Gaza – Israel

A total of 19 IDF soldiers have been killed in the north since October 7 last year, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government responded to the series of Hamas raids out of Gaza by launching an offensive against the Palestinian enclave.

Hezbollah has sought to support Hamas by occasionally firing rockets into northern Israel. Rocket exchanges have compelled the evacuation of more than 53,000 Israelis and 95,000 Lebanese from the vicinity of the border.

Israel has also blamed Hezbollah rocket strikes for starting a series of wildfires in the Golan Heights and northern Galilee over the past weekend, which burned down almost 2,500 acres of forest.

Netanyahu echoed Herzog’s comments while visiting the northern city of Kiryat Shmona on Wednesday, saying the IDF was prepared for “very intense action” against Hezbollah.

“Whoever thinks that they can hurt us and that we will sit idly by is making a big mistake,” he told reporters. “One way or another, we will restore security to the north.”

Hezbollah official Naim Qassem told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that the group doesn’t consider Israeli threats to be serious. “We have decided not to widen the battle and we do not want an all-out war. But if it is imposed on us, we are ready and we won’t retreat,” Qassem said.