The Hezbollah-affiliated daily Al Akhbar on Sunday ran a story under the headline, “South Haifa opposite North of the Litani,” in response to reports that UNIFIL had sent Hezbollah a threatening message last week, saying Israel would harm any military man or civilian within 3 kilometers north of its border with Lebanon.
“After two months of continuous battles between Hezbollah and the enemy on the border with occupied Palestine, the battle is entering a new, fiercer phase, with the enemy deliberately intensifying its strikes on civilian homes in the border villages,” Al Akhbar reported.
“The escalation against civilians raises the realistic expectation that the war on the Lebanese front, coinciding with the war of extermination against the Palestinians, alongside the desperate political attempts to neutralize Hezbollah to monopolize the Palestinians at the current stage,” Al Akhbar said, citing the report about UNIFIL, at the beginning of last week, conveying an official message from the Israeli enemy to Hezbollah, stating that ‘Israel considers everything that moves on the border with Lebanon, at a depth of up to 3 km, whether civilian or military, a legitimate target for its forces.’”
Hezbollah’s immediate response, according to Al Akhbar, was that “the enemy’s implementation of this threat means that Hezbollah will respond in kind, considering everything that moves within a distance of 3 kilometers deep into the occupied Palestinian territories a legitimate target, whether civilian or militarily.”
According to Al Akhbar, “Western envoys carry threatening messages from the enemy to Lebanese officials, threatening to destroy Beirut, and demanding the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1701 and the withdrawal of the Hezbollah from the area south of the Litani River.”
Needless to say, the 2006 Resolution 1701, which followed the second Lebanon war, was dead on arrival, seeing as Hezbollah has never heeded it. In theory, the resolution would have created a 28-kilometer buffer zone between the IDF and Hezbollah, where only UNIFIL and the Lebanese army were allowed to operate.
Al Akhbar insists that Hezbollah is determined to “defend Lebanese sovereignty and support Gaza at all costs,” and advises the Western powers to come up with ideas on how to “pacify Israel” instead.
Dr. Assaf Regev, an expert on Islam and the modern Middle East, told Maariv in November that, unlike the Gaza Strip, Lebanon is a nation-state with a capital, airports, power stations, bridges, and 5 million citizens besides Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.
“Many Lebanese openly go on camera and beg not to drag Lebanon into the Gaza conflict,” said Regev. “From the prime minister of Lebanon through the heads of the Christian denominations and the rank-and-file Lebanese civilians. The slogan in Lebanon at present is, Don’t sacrifice Lebanon for Iran and Hamas. The average Lebanese is asking himself how the Iranian whims and the terrible massacre in Gaza have anything to do with him, and why he has to pay the terrible price that Israel has vowed to exact in Lebanon.”
According to a July 2007 report, the Lebanese economy was severely damaged by the 2006 war, to the point where it was defined by the CIA as a “war-damaged economy,” with an annual 5% negative growth, and was forced to borrow large amounts of money from foreign countries which it struggled to repay, resulting in becoming a failed state.
The Israeli economy meanwhile recovered quickly, reaching an intense annual growth of 5% and a rising stock exchange, with $11 billion in loans extended to foreign countries. Unemployment in Lebanon rose to 20% in 2007, a figure that continued to rise since. In Israel, despite the pandemic and the current war in Gaza, unemployment remains low.
In terms of rebuilding, as of July 2007, most of the homes that were destroyed in Israel had been rebuilt, while in Lebanon a significant part of the devastated 125,000 homes have not been rebuilt, and many villages that were destroyed never recovered, despite donations from around the world, especially Iran. As a result, Lebanon is still suffering from the burden on its economy of more than 200,000 displaced persons.
There is no doubt that Israel has the military capability to bring Lebanon right back to its devastated state back in 2006, a reality that every Lebanese, including Nasrallah, does not deny.
However, it still remains to be seen whether Nasrallah, Hezbollah, and Iran are rational players, or, like Hamas, their priorities are different, preferring martyrdom over prosperity or even economic survival.