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Will the War of Words turn into Words of War?

12/08/2009

I’m a bit concerned that the continuing war of words between Israel and Hezbollah might get out of hand and lead to an all-out war. Israel’s Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, whom I know quite well and who, I can testify, is careful with his words said, last week, that Israel “would not tolerate a situation whereby a neighbouring country (he referred to Lebanon) has in its government and parliament a militia (he meant Hezbollah) that has its own policy and 40,000 rockets aimed at Israel”. A senior official for Hezbollah, Hashem Safi al-Din, responded that it was ready for any eventuality and he went on towarn Israel that any “silly act” would lead to such a forceful response as to make the previous 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah “look like a joke”.

So what could trigger an all-out confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon? Well, when the temperature is rising, anything could easily ignite the keg of powder. But what, in particular, and perhaps more than anything else has the potential to cause an explosion is any attempt by Hezbollah to carry out its revenge attack for the death of Imad Mughniyeh (seen above), a top commander in the organisation who was killed when his car was blown up in Damascus in February 2008. Hezbollah believes Mossad was behind the assassination, a claim Israel denies.

I also expect that unlike in 2006, where the Israelis tried to work only from the air, this time – if war does break out – they will put boots on the ground, mainly in the area between the Israeli-Lebanese border and the Litani River to search and destroy Hezbollah’s mortars and other launchers to stop firing into Israeli town and cities. And as much of Hezbollah’s arsenal is now hidden inside towns and villages in southern Lebanon I expect that any Israeli operation there will trigger a massive movement of Lebanese population from the south towards Beirut.

So will the war of words turn into words of war? Frankly, I don’t know.