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The Northern Front: Between Fire and Waiting

2023-10-27 06:03

Issam Khoury

#PalestinianFactions, #NorthernFrontTensions , #IsraeliChallenges , #IranianInfluence , #GazaConflict2023 , #ShiiteMilitias, #RegionalPolitics , #HezbollahThreat , #SyrianBorderConflict ,

The Northern Front: Between Fire and Waiting

"Israel grapples with challenges on multiple fronts, facing both immediate tensions and threats, amid a backdrop of regional politics and Iranian influence"



"Our position is clear. If the Americans intervene, we will do the same. If America steps into this conflict, all American targets become legitimate, and we won't hold back. They must cease their support for the Zionist entity."




Saleh al-Arouri, [1] the military leader of Hamas in Lebanon, is known for his close ties to Hezbollah, especially with its Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. If tensions escalate on Israel's northern front, al-Arouri could be one of the significant figures targeted by the Israelis. This comes amidst an already tense southern front, which has seen the deaths of over 1,000 Israelis and 830 Palestinians in a mere three days, in addition to thousands of injuries for both sides. The material losses for both parties are also considerable.


The Israeli military was significantly shocked by the Al-Qassam Brigades' attack. Contrary to their belief that their fortified barrier was impregnable, Palestinian militants successfully breached it, penetrating Israeli settlements with ease. The Iron Dome system also failed to intercept the intense rocket salvos from the Qassam Brigades. In certain areas, glider aircraft were utilized to overcome the barrier. Moreover, Palestinians successfully targeted surveillance radars on the barrier with explosives, rendering them ineffective.


In light of these events, the Israeli military devised two primary strategies:


Defensive Strategy Within this strategy, the Israeli army focuses on the following points:


  • Media Mobilization Since the onset of the attacks by the Al-Qassam Brigades and Islamic Jihad on the morning of Oct 07, 2023, Israelis began circulating distressing videos of attacks on civilians to garner global empathy. They also rolled out paid ads on social media highlighting the plight of their civilians.


  • General Mobilization The military announced a general mobilization plan, aiming to enlist 300,000 troops.


  • Declaration of War Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared war without seeking approval from the Knesset. He then called upon the opposition to join forces and establish an emergency state for the nation's protection. This move temporarily shelved internal political disputes in Israel to prioritize national security.


  • Diplomatic Outreach Several countries, including Germany, Italy, Austria, Britain, France, Ukraine, and the United States, swiftly expressed support for Israel. Notably, the U.S. deployed an aircraft carrier, aiming to deter Hezbollah and Iran from intervening in the Israel-Gaza conflict.


  • Evacuation of Settlements As a safety measure and to ensure unobstructed military movement, the Israeli army commenced evacuating settlements near the Gaza Strip.


The Offensive Strategy

The Israeli military's offensive approach is structured around three main components:


1. Border Control Component: This focuses on neutralizing Palestinian militants within Israeli settlements, rebuilding the damaged separation wall, and fortifying military presence at the borders. Israel has deployed roughly 200,000 troops along the Gaza border to this end.


2. Retaliatory Component: The Israeli Air Force has increased its bombing raids on residential areas in Gaza, causing widespread electricity and water shortages. While the intention behind this is to exert pressure on Gaza's population in retaliation to Hamas's actions, the assertion that solely Hamas headquarters are targeted is disputed. Regrettably, these bombardments have resulted in civilian casualties, including women and children. This has, in turn, bolstered unity among Palestinians in Gaza and the factions attacking Israel.


In Israel, there's growing anger, pushing Netanyahu's government towards actions that result in higher Palestinian casualties. This sentiment among the Israeli public seeks retribution. Additionally, the bombings help scatter Palestinian forces, facilitating the objectives of the Border Control Component by aiding the Israeli military's efforts to secure the border.


3. Full-Scale Assault Component: Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, in an interview with the "Times of Israel," insinuated a comprehensive response, indicating potential land, air, and sea operations aimed at retaking the Gaza Strip and disarming the classified terrorist organizations.


Both these strategies, defensive and offensive, fit into an overarching security plan urging Israelis to renew their intelligence on extremist organizations that have been tolerated by past Israeli administrations. This has led them to bolster their defense capabilities, even coordinating with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in some instances.


Hezbollah, for instance, has transformed from a localized Lebanese party to one with broader regional influence, deploying fighters both in Syria and Lebanon. It poses the potential threat of destabilizing the Syrian Golan region by facilitating operations by Hamas fighters trained under Saleh Arouri. Moreover, militants from the Islamic Jihad movement, under Ziyad Rashid al-Nakhaleh's leadership, [2] who often shuttles between Damascus and Lebanon, are positioned for operations in the Galilee.


A pressing concern is the radical ideologies held by fighters from both Shia and Sunni extremist organizations, who believe that martyrdom guarantees paradise. This belief motivates many jihadists to partake in confrontations, seeking the "honor" of martyrdom.


The Palestinians, while being adversaries to the Israelis, aren't the only concern; various Shiite militias backed by Tehran also pose challenges. On October 9, Hadi al-Amiri, leader of the Iraqi al-Fath Alliance, unequivocally stated, "Our position is clear. If the Americans intervene, we will do the same. If America steps into this conflict, all American targets become legitimate, and we won't hold back. They must cease their support for the Zionist entity." [3] This followed a declaration by the Popular Mobilization Forces on October 7, 2023, which extended full support to the Palestinian factions in their conflict with Israel.


Al-Amiri, along with other leaders of the Popular Mobilization Forces, are perceived as proxies for Iran in Iraq and Syria. His declaration can be seen as Tehran's direct message to Washington, especially after the U.S. urged Iran to withhold support from Hamas. This concern is further amplified by the endorsement from the Iranian president regarding Hamas' actions against Israel on October 8, 2023. [4]

Given these developments, it's anticipated that the Israeli army might face intensified conflict on the northern front, particularly along the Syrian and Lebanese borders. There might also be sporadic infiltration attempts to exhaust Israeli intelligence and military resources, thereby easing the strain on Gaza.

The al-Assad regime in Syria doesn't seem to have the means to prevent Iran from utilizing its borders. Additionally, Russia seems disinclined to settle the Israeli matter based on U.S. assurances. This is especially true considering the U.S.'s involvement in the India-Saudi Arabia-Israel triad, which threatens the Russian-Iranian-Chinese influence stemming from the Silk Road initiative.


Given the circumstances, the conflict in Gaza could persist for an extended period. For Israel to navigate this intricate situation, there might be a need to stabilize the northern front, possibly by inducing turmoil. Targeting Assad could be a strategic move, as his removal could enable opposition groups to venture into neighboring territories. With Hezbollah preoccupied with defending its territories in Syria, which could be deemed more crucial for Iran than Palestine, Israel might have a calmer northern front, letting it concentrate on the challenges in Gaza.





[1] A member of Hamas since 1987, he led the Islamic student movement and helped establish Hamas’s military wing in the West Bank. He has been repeatedly detained by Israel, for long periods between 1985-1992, and 1992-2007. In 2010 he was deported by Israel to Syria where he lived for three years before moving to Turkey. He is currently based in Lebanon.



[2] Ziyad al-Nakhalah, The US Department of State designated PIJ as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997 and designated PIJ’s Secretary General Ziyad al-Nakhalah as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in 2014.


[3] SwissInfo/ Oct 10, 2023


[4] CNN Arabic, Oct 08, 2023



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