Israeli forces fired artillery shells into southern Lebanon overnight, retaliating against a pair of rockets entering Israeli territory from Lebanon. No casualties or damage were reported on either side.
Exactly how this latest exchange started isn’t entirely clear. Lebanon is undergoing a serious economic crisis, and stability is suffering. The Lebanese Army reported finding and disabling the rocket launching pads that were used, and which were near where Israel was firing.
Whatever happened, Israel’s DM Benny Gantz says that it is entirely the fault of the state of Lebanon because “it allows terrorists to operate within its territory.” Israeli officials also blamed Iran.
Indeed, PM Naftali Bennett said that “Lebanon is on the verge of collapse like any country in which Iran bases itself,” saying the Lebanese people are “taken hostage by Khamenei.”
The argument by Bennett is spurious, at best. Iran has not based itself in Lebanon, and the entire notion that it had is based on the nation being the host of Hezbollah, a Shi’ite militia with some common interests. Yet Israel’s hostility toward Hezbollah dates back decades, and was about the group resisting the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, not anything to do with Iran. Moreover, Lebanon has not been on the verge of collapse until very recently, even though the underlying Israeli hostility is long-term.
Israel styles almost any nation that has a meaningful Shi’ite population as any Iranian proxy, and apparently views all such nations as necessarily “on the verge of collapse.” Despite this, the situation in Lebanon is profoundly different than in other nations, and has nothing to do with Iran.
Heavy deficit spending for subsidies and the pandemic played a big role is Lebanon’s ever-worsening economy, and the World Bank says in terms of harm to living standards, the Lebanese crisis is among the worst three since the mid-1800s. This has created shortages, a near-worthless currency, and a sense among many that the country is becoming unraveled.
This has Israel, which is hostile to Lebanon at any rate, threatening further military action if there is spillover violence from the Lebanese side of the border. Israeli officials argue this amounts to defending their sovereignty, ignoring that they have routinely violated Lebanese sovereignty by violating its airspace in regular attacks on neighboring Syria.
Gantz urged the international community to intervene to try to stabilize Lebanon going forward. In the near-term, Israel will presumably use any cross-border fire as an excuse to attack southern Lebanon.