clearly how much more sophisticated the group’s arsenal had become since its last conflict with Israel in 2006, when it relied largely on inaccurate Soviet-era Katyusha rockets.
Back then, the 2006 Lebanon-Israel war ended with no clear victor or vanquished. At the time, many parts of Lebanon were devastated, but Hezbollah foiled Israel’s ultimate plan to dismantle the group, dealing a blow to Israel’s aura of invincibility.
In the intervening years, Hezbollah has dramatically built up its arsenal, and its fighters are far more experienced in urban warfare. They’re battle-hardened from fighting in Syria against ISIS, the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, and armed opposition groups that tried to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly evoked a hypothetical scenario where his fighters would conduct an incursion into northern Israel in case war erupted between Lebanon and Israel again. Israel and US officials have repeatedly expressed alarm about Hezbollah’s precision-guided missiles, which were used against Israel for the first time this month.
Nasrallah has also said that his group boasts more than 100,000 fighters and reservists. Historically, Israeli and US officials have been reluctant to dismiss claims by the paramilitary leader, who oversaw a surge in the size and power of the group in the 32 years of his leadership.
Yet Nasrallah, known for his fiery televised speeches, has been noticeably silent since October 7. Observers don’t know what to make of this. In addresses he delivered in recent months, Nasrallah lauded the growing alliance between his group and Hamas, though they were on opposite sides of Syria’s bloody civil war.
He has also indicated that the loose rules of engagement between Hezbollah and Israel may soon change, with the Lebanon-based group possibly intervening on behalf of the Palestinians.
This has led many observers to speculate that Hezbollah may expand its fight against Israel in case of the much-anticipated Israeli ground invasion into Gaza.
Yet what happens from now is anyone’s guess. World leaders will continue to watch this border with bated breath.
CNN’s Ben Wedeman, Sarah El Sirgany and Charbel Mallo contributed reporting from southern Lebanon.