Vidisha Arora
Geopolitical Risk Intelligence Analyst

Hezbollah, Hamas: Israel’s Twin Threats

Executive Summary

As Israel stands on the brink of a potential third war with Hezbollah, the relentless barrage of missiles, drones, and rockets from the Lebanese organization has put the spotlight on the differences and similarities between both the terrorist groups – Hezbollah and Hamas.

Funded by the Islamic Republic of Iran, both Hezbollah and Hamas have declared war on Israel and have been responsible for numerous terrorist attacks against American civilians and military personnel. Israel has already faced Hezbollah in two significant conflicts, in 1982 and 2006. Hezbollah is potentially by far the most powerful Iranian proxy equipped with nation-state capabilities and even more firepower than several European militaries have, as of writing. 

According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the US State Department, despite Iran’s widespread poverty and economic instability, the Islamic Republic continues to funnel over $700 million annually to Hezbollah. This vast funding underpins Hezbollah’s extensive military cooperation with Iran’s regime, visible in Lebanon, Syria, and across Europe, particularly in terrorism and war planning.

In a military comparison, Hezbollah is far more powerful than Hamas across the board in every military metric. In terms of the amount of rockets they have, the range, the accuracy or the payload or size of the warhead, also in terms of the amount of personnel, armed fighters, their training and their equipment.

Hezbollah has built up an arsenal of approximately 150,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel. Meanwhile, the IDF has been working to degrade Hamas’ stockpile, which started at 20,000 rockets and missiles at the beginning of the conflict. Despite these efforts, Hamas managed to launch eight rockets from Rafah into Israel just two weeks ago.

The stark differences between Hezbollah and Hamas underscore the scale of the threat posed by Hezbollah’s vastly superior military capabilities, raising the stakes in this escalating conflict.

Current Situation

On June 11, Hezbollah, the terrorist group based out of Lebanon backed by Iran pledged to ramp up attacks along the Lebanon-Israel border in retaliation for the killing of its top military commander by Israel, marking the most significant loss for the group in the past eight months of conflict.

Hezbollah launched over 200 missiles and rockets at northern Israel on June 12 in retaliation for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) killing a top Hezbollah commander on 11 June. The strikes which targeted Israeli military factories, bases, and an air surveillance station were one of the largest Hezbollah attacks on Israel since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7, 2023, eight months ago. No casualties were reported.

Hezbollah, an Iran-backed terrorist group and an ally of the Palestinian Hamas group, has been exchanging fire with Israel nearly every day since the Israel-Hamas war started on October 7 and has stated it will only cease if there is a truce in Gaza. This situation has increased fears of a broader regional conflict.

The ongoing exchange of fire between Israel and Hamas has escalated since Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip, prompting Hezbollah to launch cross-border attacks in support of Hamas. This month, the intensity of Hezbollah’s assaults has surged. Israeli officials have issued high-level threats of further military action, while Hezbollah has vowed to continue its fight, raising new concerns that the ongoing low-level conflict could escalate into a larger war on Israel’s northern border.

Hostilities have intensified between Israel and Hezbollah in recent weeks, marked by Hezbollah’s increased use of UAVs, a higher volume of attacks on Israeli border communities, and an occasional geographical expansion of attacks targeting deeper inside Israeli territory. This has resulted in increasing disruption to business operations and civilian life within 20km of the Israel-Lebanon border, which has been compounded by secondary risks associated with successful or intercepted Hezbollah attacks that ignite dry land and trigger fires. This has been recorded on several occasions in recent days, both along the border in Kiryat Shmona and areas deeper inside Israel such as the Safed area and Katzrin. This has exacerbated concerns among both displaced Israeli civilians and officials regarding the continued threat posed by Hezbollah, which remains significant. 

This is despite an eight-month period of persistent IDF attacks on Hezbollah positions, commanders, and assets aimed at degrading the Iran-backed group’s capabilities.  

These concerns, particularly regarding the secondary risks of fires, will persist throughout the upcoming summer months. The optics that emerge from such large-scale fires will also likely increase the perception within Israel that these border towns and cities have been abandoned. This will prompt additional pressure from civilians and local officials for Israel to take a stronger course of action along its northern frontier to restore security. This is reflected in PM Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Halevi’s statements, while the reported increased IDF draft authorization points to Israel’s efforts to enhance its preparedness for such an eventuality.  

These developments are indicative of an imminent escalation, highlighting rising tensions that increase the risk of miscalculation or the prospect of a decision. As indicated by the Hezbollah deputy leader, the group remains ready for a full-scale war, which could lead to a snowball effect into an expansion of the conflict in the coming weeks.

What was, what happened on October 7 2023? and how did it lead to the present?

The Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7, 2023, were by far the most deadly terrorist attack in the country’s history, and the resulting war is one of the most devastating to both sides, with several killed so far, a number that will surely rise further as Israel tries to destroy Hamas completely. Why did Hamas attack when it knew that the consequences for it and the civilian population would be so deadly? From the statements of Hamas leaders, reporting drawing on documents captured from Hamas fighters, and Hamas’s long track record, some answers can be gleaned.

One of Hamas’s goals was simply to kill Israelis as many of them, this isn’t a new goal and has been unfortunately established in their charter since long before. Among other weapons, Hamas also equipped its fighters with thermobaric grenades, which can quickly cause massive fires in a home. The fighters also had enough ammunition and food to keep going into Israel if they were able to do so, as well as maps, suggesting an even higher death toll was possible. 

Yet, Hamas’s relentless hatred for Israel doesn’t fully explain the timing of the October 7 attack. Part of the reason might lie in Hamas’s perception that it’s losing its prominence in Gaza despite ruling it since 2006. In this view, the attempt to regain power, reputation may have prompted the escalation that led to October 7, 2023. 

Were they aware that their deadly escalation may have consequences? Of course they were aware, which is potentially why the world needs to open their eyes and realize that they have been comparing a “terrorist organization” to an established country, “the state of Israel” which undoubtedly has had the right to defend itself against any form of terrorism. 

Moving Ahead

Broadly speaking, the recent escalation of flare-ups from Hezbollah’s side has largely been to divert Israel from the South as Israel has largely contained on the Hamas terrorists since October 7 2023. 

The risk of escalation between Hezbollah and Israel after more than eight months of border clashes has shown no sign of stopping.

Hezbollah has upped the ante, seeking to demonstrate that it can counter Israel’s crucial technological advantages in air power and air defenses and launching rocket and drone attacks on an unprecedented scale. This can be exhibited by the recent surveillance footage released by Hezbollah taken from drones that it says flew over parts of the coast of northern Israel. The drone footage shows many “sensitive” sites in northern Israel, mostly along the coastline from Haifa toward the Lebanese border.

It is not the first time Hezbollah’s drones have penetrated Israeli airspace or that the terrorist organization has made public various types of footage of Israel. Hezbollah prides itself on this kind of information warfare. It has hinted that this is just the tip of the iceberg of what it can accomplish.

As such, If the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) does not execute its mandated mission by stopping Hezbollah attacks on Israel and ensuring the group withdraws north of the Litani River, the steadily intensifying violence on Israel’s northern border could become a full-scale war with massive loss of life. It’s worth noting that the UN has repeatedly just been a reactive force in this series of conflicts that have erupted since October 7, 2023. While, diplomacy, rather the historic element of UN’s pure definition has been to be pro-active and to use deterrence in an attempt to avoid “hot-war”. 

As such, UNIFIL has roughly 10,000 troops stationed in southern Lebanon. Under UN Security Council Resolution 1701, passed in 2006, UNIFIL must ensure, among other things, that the area between the Lebanon’s Litani River and the so-called Blue Line (the de facto border between Israel and Lebanon, roughly 30 km south of the river) is “free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL.”

The UN resolution also authorizes UNIFIL to “take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind.” Unfortunately, UNIFIL has utterly failed to fulfill this mandate. 

However, the retaliation from Israel is inevitable in the coming weeks and is almost unavoidable. This is despite the recent remarks of Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah threatening that if Israel opens a “total war” the Jewish state must prepare for attacks from the ground, the air and the sea, and the “situation in the Mediterranean will change completely.”

What is worth noting about Israel? Is the resilience of the people in the country. The nation of Israel is different from any nation on this planet, as it has been in an existential battle for survival from the moment of its birth in 1948 until this very day. It is a nation under constant siege, and without constant vigilance (and the mercy of God), it would be wiped off from the map.

Tell me another nation on the planet that needs every young person, both male and female, to serve in the military for two-three years immediately after high school. Or that requires all men until the age of 40 to serve in the reserves – meaning, to go back into the military if needed. (The only exceptions to these rules are ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are exempt from military service). 

What most people forget is that Israel has always faced backlash, this is nothing new. Rather, it is what Israel has faced since the announcement of the UN Partition Plan in 1947. 

As summarized by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, “On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 calling for the partition of Mandatory Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. The Jews accepted the plan with a mixture of joy and hesitation, while the Arabs rejected it and launched a war to forcibly prevent its implementation.”

And what happened the day after Israel announced in independence in May 1948? The Jewish Virtual Library explains: “On May 15, 1948, the day the British Mandate over Palestine ended, the armies of five neighboring Arab states invaded the new State of Israel, which had declared its independence the previous day. The invasion, heralded by an Egyptian air attack on Tel Aviv, was vigorously resisted. From the north, east and south came the armies of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Transjordan, and Egypt.”

Israel has been under siege since its modern rebirth, and it remains under siege to this day.

For good reason, both Jews and Christians point to the words of Psalm 121, reminding us that “he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” If not for divine mercy, Israel would not be.   

Am Yisrael Chai! 

About the Author
Geopolitical Risk Intelligence Analyst, Vidisha Arora, from India. Masters in Diplomacy, Law, and Business with a specialisation in Economics and Foreign Policy.
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