Israel’s talk of expanding the war into Lebanon is reported to be “alarming” the Biden administration. According to a report yesterday in the Washington Post, U.S. officials are concerned that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may see an expanded fight in Lebanon as key to his political survival amid domestic criticism of his government’s failure to prevent Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack. In private conversations, the administration has warned Israel against a significant escalation in Lebanon. If it were to do so, a new secret assessment from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) found that it will be difficult for Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to succeed because its military assets and resources would be spread too thin given the conflict in Gaza, two people familiar with those findings, told the Post.
U.S. officials reportedly fear that a full-scale conflict between Israel and Lebanon would surpass the bloodshed of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war on account of Hezbollah’s substantially larger arsenal of long-range and precision weaponry. “The number of casualties in Lebanon could be anywhere from 300,000 to 500,000 and entail a massive evacuation of all of northern Israel,” said Bilal Saab, a Lebanon expert at the Middle East Institute, a Washington think tank. Hezbollah may strike deeper into Israel than before, hitting sensitive targets like petrochemical plants and nuclear reactors, and Iran may activate militias across the region. “I don’t think it would be limited to these two antagonists,” he said.
Israel has mostly sought to limit the fighting in its north, reports the Associated Press. Hezbollah’s military capabilities are far superior to those of Hamas. But Israeli leaders have said their patience is wearing thin, and that if the tensions cannot be resolved through diplomacy, they are prepared to use force. “I suggest that Hezbollah learn what Hamas has already learned in recent months: No terrorist is immune,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet. “We are determined to defend our citizens and to return the residents of the north safely to their homes.”