In the last week of August, the IDF reportedly struck a Hizballah facility in Beirut, destroying equipment used for building precision missiles. The event sparked a series of attacks and counterattacks that seem to have ceased on Sunday. While Israeli losses were limited to a single, empty military vehicle, the IDF did serious damage to Hizballah’s military infrastructure. Tony Badran comments:
For the past decade, Hizballah’s strategy has relied on two key conditions, both of which no longer appear to be [in effect]. The first condition was that the U.S. would continue to [accept] the myth of an independent Lebanese state separate and autonomous from the terror group. . . . The second condition . . . was Israel’s general avoidance of conducting military operations inside Lebanese territory.
The [Israeli] operation . . . marked the end of an almost six-year hiatus, during which the Israelis limited their strikes against Hizballah and Iranian assets to targets in Syria. Israel’s tacit agreement not to conduct operations inside Lebanon, which was intended to prevent an escalation into full-on war, had jibed well over the past six years with a U.S. policy that prioritized “preserving Lebanon’s stability.” Unable to respond directly to Israel’s ongoing operations in Syria, Iran and Hizballah launched a project to upgrade the precision of Hizballah’s stockpile of missiles inside Lebanon. For the Israelis, this was a red line.
[Hizballah’s leader], Hassan Nasrallah, had hoped to transfer the active front against Israel from Lebanon to Syria, so as to create an alternative launching pad for operations against Israel without risking devastation in Lebanon. The plan foundered as Israel’s relentless blows against Hizballah and the Iranians in Syria, and more recently in Iraq, reached a point where Nasrallah was forced to revive the Lebanese front. In July, for instance, he announced his group would respond “from Lebanon” to any Hizballah death at Israel’s hands in Syria. He might have thought that such an announcement would deter the Israelis, but instead it has put him in a corner. All he could do, as Hizballah fired across the border on Sunday at an IDF vehicle, was to hope for low IDF casualties, and for the Israelis not to retaliate with disproportionate force.
Meanwhile, U.S. support for Israel during the period of escalation, and its recent decision to sanction a Lebanese bank used frequently by Hizballah, suggest that Washington is wearying of the idea that the Iranian-backed terrorist group can be contained by Beirut.