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Report: Israel struck Hamas positions in Gaza, Lebanon to avoid wider conflict with Hezbollah

Smoke and flames rise during Israeli airstrikes against the besieged Gaza Strip on April 6, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

Two Israeli military officials say the Tel Aviv regime decided to launch air strikes on positions of the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip after a spate of rocket attacks against the occupied territories, apparently to avoid a wider conflict with Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement.

In discussing their response to a barrage of rockets launched from Lebanon on Thursday, Israeli authorities concluded that the regime didn't have any interest in getting dragged into a war in Lebanon that would risk turning into a regional conflict, the Israeli officials said, according to a report published by US news website Axios on Friday.

One of the officials said in the consultation held by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and minister of military affairs Yoav Gallant ahead of a security cabinet meeting late on Thursday, the Israeli military and the spy agency Mossad presented different assessments on what Hezbollah’s response would be to Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon.

Mossad chief David Barnea argued Hezbollah would likely respond to any Israeli airstrike and therefore Israel should strike the positions of the movement in addition to Hamas and Lebanese targets, the official added.

But the Israeli army’s chief of staff, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, said it was in the regime’s interest not to engage Hezbollah, and that Israel's response should stay focused on Hamas, the official said.

The official added that Halevi's position ultimately prevailed as the recommendation to take at the security cabinet meeting.

During the Israeli security cabinet meeting, one of the main issues discussed was what the scope of the Israeli response should be in Lebanon, the Israeli officials said.

Israeli military chiefs told the Israeli minters that a wider response against Hezbollah would likely result in the Lebanese resistance movement launching precision missiles toward Israeli-occupied territories, which could escalate into a war.

All the ministers voted in favor of the Israeli military’s recommendation to focus the response against Hamas, the two Israeli military officials said.

Political observers say that Israel is most likely not looking to escalate the situation along its border with Lebanon.

“Israel wants to respond but doesn’t want a wide-scale war and doesn’t want to involve Hezbollah in a war,” Wassail Awada, a political analyst based in Lebanon, said.

“There are many reasons [to this] among them its domestic troubles – and Israel doesn’t want to disrupt its production of gas,” he said.

Lebanese commentator Ibrahim al-Amin, who is close to Hezbollah’s leadership, also wrote in the Arabic-language al-Akhbar newspaper that if Israel assassinates Hamas leaders in Lebanon or threatens the security of the people in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah would react.

But he stressed that “local attacks” by Israel in Lebanon are meaningless, and will not necessarily prompt a large-scale Hezbollah response.

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