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Thursday, February 15, 2024

The Gaza war is set to spill onto the streets of Western cities

Adding to the increased threat of Gaza-related violence spilling into other parts of or beyond the Middle East, Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah, warned for the second time in a week that Hezbollah would retaliate.

The question is not if but when Gaza-related violence will spill onto the streets of European and American cities.

Last week’s killing in Beirut of Hamas executive Saleh al-Arouri significantly enhanced the threat posed by Hamas, Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, and jihadists.

Adding to the increased threat of Gaza-related violence spilling into other parts of or beyond the Middle East, Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah, warned for the second time in a week that Hezbollah would retaliate.

Read more: Israel to face Gaza genocide charges at World Court

“We’ll choose the right place and the right time, but the field will respond,” Mr. Nasrallah said in his second response to the Al-Arouri killing in Hezbollah’s stronghold in southern Beirut in as many days.

Hezbollah has vowed to retaliate for the killing in Lebanon of any representative of the Iranian-backed Axis of Resistance that includes Hamas, the Yemeni Houthis, and Iraqi militias alongside the Lebanese Shiite militia and the Islamic Republic.

Restrained by not wanting to drag bankrupt Lebanon into a full-fledged war, Hezbollah could opt for a retaliation far from the Israeli-Lebanese border.

That response was not precluded by the firing on Saturday of 62 rockets at an Israeli observation post in what Hezbollah called a “preliminary response” to the Al-Arouri killing. The attack appeared calibrated to keep hostilities with Israelis contained.

However, in a possible indication of further things to come, Mr. Nasrallah’s representative to Iraq, Mohammad Hussein Al-Kawtharani, returned to Baghdad reportedly to coordinate attacks on US targets in Iraq with Iranian-backed Iraqi militias.

Read more: Netanyahu clarifies Gaza war aims

A US Treasury-designated global terrorist, Mr. Al-Kawtharani has a US$10 million bounty on his head.

Mr. Al-Kawtharani’s return coincided with the US killing of an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia leader in retaliation for recent attacks on American personnel and Iraqi steps to remove the U.S.-led international military coalition against the Islamic State from the country.

Widely viewed as a hardliner within Hamas, Mr. Al-Arouri grew close to Mr. Nasrallah after the Hamas official arrived in Lebanon at a time when the group’s relations with Hezbollah were strained because of Lebanese Shiite support for President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war.

Mr. Nasrallah “turned (Mr. Al-Arouri) into a power card within Hamas but in Nasrallah’s hand… Some even say that Arouri was a Hezbollah hawk within Hamas,” said a source close to Hezbollah.

Addressing Israelis directly in a speech earlier this week, Mr. Nasrallah, was unequivocal in his call for replacing Israel with a Palestinian state rather than an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

“Here you (Israelis) don’t have a future. The land of Palestine is for the Palestinians,” Mr. Nasrallah said.

From Hamas’ perspective, responding to Mr. Al-Arouri’s killing by striking abroad at Israeli embassies, diplomatic facilities and representatives is its best option. Hamas is unlikely to see a rocket barrage fired from Gaza toward Israeli towns and cities, most of which are intercepted by Israeli air defense, as a sufficient response.

Similarly, Hamas, three months into the war, is not well positioned to successfully target Israeli government offices and officials in Israel.

Raising the stakes, the Islamic State this week called for lone wolf attacks on civilian argets in Europe and the United States, including churches and synagogues.

 

Dr. James M. Dorsey is an Adjunct Senior Fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, and the author of the syndicated column and podcast, The Turbulent World with James M. Dorsey.

The views expressed in the articles are the author’s own and do not reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.