Published On: Čet, svi 13th, 2021

GAZA: Can Hezbollah join the party?

Although the Shiite party is following the events closely, an intervention on its part, however, seems rather improbable. Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah (right) with Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh during their meeting in 2020 in Beirut at an undisclosed location. AFP Photo

For the first time in years, the al-Qassam brigades (the armed wing of Hamas) launched rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. This show of force, which surprised many observers, caused some fervour within the resistance axis. On the channel al-Manar, organ of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hashem Safieddine, representative of the executive council of the Shiite party, welcomed that “the rockets falling on Tel Aviv confirm to the enemy that the resistance is much stronger than their estimate ”, adding that“ Jerusalem shines today for its fallen martyrs ”.

“Gaza is the shield of Jerusalem,” the al-Akhbar daily headlined yesterday, close to the party of God, as the escalation between Hamas and Israel in Gaza has eclipsed the Palestinian uprising in the three-holy city. For the ranks of the resistance, the armed capabilities of Hamas and the launching of hundreds of rockets against the aggressor appear to be signs of its future military superiority over the “Zionist enemy”.

From Hamas’s point of view, the rocket salutes launched against Tel Aviv are a crucial asset, highlighting Israel’s vulnerability. Hitting Tel Aviv represents a strong symbol since Saddam Hussein’s Scud in 1991, which reminds us that the population of this metropolis, presented as an ideal of success, with its beautiful beaches and modern business districts, can also be affected by the dispute. The Iron Dome touted as the flagship of the Israeli arms industry, is not as effective as expected. “This defence mechanism is not capable of securing areas of civilian populations. He is vulnerable and can be quickly overwhelmed by a large number of interceptions at the same time. It is not very functional either for defending the localities close to the Gaza Strip ”, decrypts Pierre Ahl, an expert in military affairs, who explains that its use is mainly centred on the defence of strategic sites, such as military bases or nuclear facilities.

Ongoing negotiations

The apparent weaknesses of the Hebrew state could encourage Hezbollah to invite itself into the confrontation. The formation of two simultaneous fronts, one in Gaza and the other in the north, is indeed the worst-case scenario for Israel. Hezbollah and Hamas share a common identity and rhetoric. Both born in the 1980s, they have received significant financial and logistical support from the Islamic Republic of Iran. However, relations between the two movements deteriorated during the Syrian conflict due to the stance of the political wing of Hamas in favour of the revolution. The break with Damascus will be consummated in 2012 with the relocation to Doha of the offices of Hamas, installed in Syria since 1999.

Hezbollah and Iran have always been keen to maintain ties with the Palestinian organization, wishing to position themselves as the spearhead of the struggle against the Hebrew state. In 2017, high-level visits between Hamas political representative Saleh al-Arouri and Hassan Nasrallah took place, and the restoration of relations was formalized the same year. Ismail Haniyeh’s visit to Beirut in 2020 brought the two groups a little closer. Since then, Hezbollah has been actively campaigning to fully reintegrate Hamas into the resistance axis, working for reconciliation between the Islamist movement and Damascus.

These relations “must absolutely be restored, whatever the efforts and the time that it will take”, declared Hassan Nasrallah in December 2020. If Hezbollah follows the evolution of the events on the other side of the border very closely, an intervention on his part, however, seems rather improbable. “It is clear that Hezbollah supports Hamas and the Palestinian forces in their battle. Hassan Nasrallah declared a total mobilization. But so far, there is no information on decision-making by the party, “argues analyst Kassem Kassir, close to Hezbollah. An intervention by the Shiite party would change the nature of the conflict by giving it a regional dimension. But the operation seems extremely risky in a delicate context for the party of God. Israel and Hezbollah have sought to avoid further escalation since their last confrontation in 2006.

Hezbollah had also contented itself with giving its moral and political support to Hamas during the previous war between it and Israel in 2014. Why would it adopt any other attitude today? With Lebanon’s economic collapse, hyperinflation and social unrest in the country, the context is certainly not conducive to such an operation. With the 2019 uprising desecrating the image of Hassan Nasrallah among many Lebanese, the party would also likely suffer from a lack of popular support if it sparked another military confrontation. At the same time, the ongoing negotiations between the United States and Iran aimed at resuscitating the nuclear deal appear to be going well and should curb any hint of seeing Tehran’s protege launch an offensive against the southern neighbour…