Efforts by the US to head off an Israeli war in southern Lebanon, a conflict US military intelligence has warned Israel may be unable to handle, may be failing, as Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is telling troops the offensive will start “very soon.”
Gallant made the comments while visiting Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip, the other open-ended military offensive in which Israel has mired itself. Gallant tried to spin the Lebanon offensive as “reinforcing” the troops in the north.
His comments come after Israel’s military chief predicted the conflict in Lebanon was very likely in the coming months and after the northern military commander said that tens of thousands of troops were ready to mount an offensive.
Israel has been launching tit-for-tat strikes with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon for several months, and top Israeli politicians seem to be spoiling for yet another fight, downplaying the US military assessment that two fronts at the same time would stretch Israel dangerously thin.
Israel’s next war in Lebanon would likely be heavily reliant on airstrikes, although Hezbollah’s recent missile attacks on the strategic airbase on Mt. Meron may limit their ability to do so in large numbers. Small numbers of drone and warplane airstrikes have hit villages in southern Lebanon since the Mt. Meron attacks.
Israeli officials are presenting this war as allowing Israeli citizens to return to the northern towns near the border. These towns have been beset by rocket fire, and the residents fled toward central Israel to stay with relatives and wait out the recent fighting. Israeli military brass say the goal of an offensive in Lebanon would be to free up the area so people could return home.
Whether that is the entirety of the Israeli military goal remains to be seen, as politicians are advocating an open-ended military occupation of southern Lebanon as a way to ensure Hezbollah doesn’t retain outposts anywhere near northern Israel’s border.
Israel is said to have given the US until the end of January to reach a deal with Lebanon to avoid the war. That Gallant is making comments about the offensive “very soon” in the last two days of the month gives credence to that deadline and seems to indicate Israel is sick of waiting and eager to start the offensive formally.