Assassination of Hamas leader in Lebanon signals change in Israeli

Assassination of Hamas leader in Lebanon signals change in Israeli war effort Internacional Estadão

JERUSALEM Two missiles fired from a drone blew up a southern apartment building Beiruton Tuesday, Killing of a senior militant leader and his lieutenantsthe event seemed to mark a turning point in the war Israel against Hamas.

For three months the Israelis pushed with a There was a fullscale military invasion of the Gaza Strip, which destroyed large parts of the Gaza Strip and killed more than 22,000 people in his search for the militants who planned and committed this Attack on Israel on October 7th. Until then, the Israelis had had no other stated war aim: to target Hamas leaders “wherever they are.”

Now, as the conflict enters its fourth month, Israel appears to have made good on that threat and is risking a major war along its border with Israel. Lebanon as troops in Gaza first begin to dwindle.

Military commanders said the partial withdrawal was possible at a time when attacks have weakened Hamas in the north and would allow thousands of reservists to return to their homes and work. Washington is also putting pressure on Israel months ago, which the president failed to do Joe Biden This is called “indiscriminate bombing” and reduces the devastating civilian death toll.

These events come amid growing concerns about the economic costs of the war in Israel and the gradual return of protests in the country as well as domestic political intrigue. Although few analysts see an end to the violence in Gaza, they do see a development.

“We are in Phase 3,” said Chuck Freilich, Israel’s former deputy national security adviser, referring to the war phase expected after the initial response to the October attacks and the ongoing air and ground war within the enclave. “I think we are entering a new mode that is closer to what the United States has advocated from the beginning.”

The Israeli army has said for months it is prepared to fight a war on two fronts, deploying soldiers and tanks along the Lebanese border and evacuating at least 70,000 residents. Israel Defense Forces units have frequently exchanged fire with the Iranaligned Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, but the attacks and counterattacks had only reached Beirut on Tuesday.

Israel launches rockets near border with Lebanon. Photo: JALAA MAREY / AFP

Israel has refused to confirm or deny any role in the killing of Saleh Arouri, an exiled Hamas official who served as a liaison with the Iranians and the Iranians Hezbollah. But he was on the country's list.

“Without a doubt, it was the most significant killing of a senior Hamas official since the war began on October 7,” Palestinian expert Avi Issacharoff said in an article in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper on Wednesday.

Although Israel claims to have killed several Hamas commanders and officials in the Gaza Strip, Yehiya Sinwar, believed to be the mastermind of the October 7 attackand other senior leaders are still at large.

Lebanese and international authorities struggled on Wednesday to prevent a longawaited retaliatory strike by Hezbollah. So far, the group has resisted calls from Hamas to enter the war in full force. Speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, Israeli officials said they hoped Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah would show restraint since none of his officers were killed in the attack.

“There’s an aircraft carrier. Let’s hope it’s enough,” one of the Israeli officials said, citing the presence of a U.S. naval fleet of aircraft carriers in the eastern Mediterranean.

Nasrallah threatened “reaction and punishment”in a speech on Wednesday, but gave few indications of how his fighters would respond.

Israeli residents of the northern port city of Haifa were advised to plan how they could seek shelter during attacks. Military analysts said the withdrawal of soldiers from Gaza would likely free up more forces for operations in nearby Lebanon.

“We are fully prepared for any scenario,” Israel Defense Forces spokesman Admiral Daniel Hagari said after Arouri’s killing.

On Tuesday, Israeli artillery launched intermittent attacks from Kibbutz Eilon, a mile south of the Lebanese border, against what Israeli forces described as “terrorist targets.” Hezbollah antitank missiles were intercepted in abandoned villages and sometimes fell.

Across Israel's north, local security forces have been training for what they say is an impending war. Dotan Razili, a resident of Eilon who serves as a reservist there, said the population's withdrawal had allowed Israeli forces to operate freely in the area and fire from agricultural fields. “We are being dragged into a war that we did not ask for,” he said.

The killing in Lebanon was widely praised in Israel, but some supporters of the estimated 133 Israelis still held hostage in Gaza said they worried the attack would derail negotiations for another hostage exchange.

“(The government) is currently motivated by a sense of revenge,” Carmit PaltiKatzir, whose brother Elad is being held hostage, said in an interview with Israeli radio. “But I say: For heaven’s sake, people still live there.”

Israeli soldiers position themselves on the border with Gaza; Airstrike hits the enclave. Photo: AP / Ariel Schalit

Israeli forces announced last week that they were withdrawing up to five brigades from the northern Gaza Strip, marking a possible shift in strategy from longrange bombing raids to more precise ground attacks from bases outside the enclave. But Israeli officials have repeatedly said fighting is likely to continue for months.

Bombing and gunfire echoed through the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis on Wednesday, where witnesses told The Washington Post that fighting remained fierce. Ambulances raced through the streets throughout the day, transporting the dead and injured, according to Hussam Kurdieh, a civilian displaced from Gaza City and seeking refuge at Nasser Hospital.

“People have become accustomed to the horrific spectacle of bombings,” he said. “But the biggest daily struggle is securing food, water and basic needs.”

In Israel, however, the war does not seem to be so overwhelming and citizens are beginning to find space for broader political debates. On Monday, Israel's Supreme Court has reversed a reform proposed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition and approved by the Knesset that would strip the Supreme Court of crucial judicial review powersa decision hailed by critics of the measure as a victory for Israeli democracy.

Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: AP / Ariel Schalit

And the antigovernment protests that rocked Israel for most of last year but ended after Oct. 7 have returned.

Crowds gathered in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Saturday demanding new elections amid growing anger against Netanyahu, who is widely accused of failing to prevent the Hamas attack and whose support has fallen sharply in opinion polls.

“We are experiencing a new phase. People are returning to the streets,” said political scientist Gayil Talshir from the Hebrew University. “But now the relatives of the hostages, the relatives of the dead soldiers, the reservists are marching at the head of these protests.”

Disagreements are increasingly becoming visible within the emergency war cabinet, in which Netanyahu shares power with, among other things, his political rival and former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Benny Gantz. Gantz and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant refused to appear alongside Netanyahu at some recent news conferences. Both expressed greater openness to Biden's ideas for a postwar government in Gaza through a reformed Palestinian Authority, an idea that Netanyahu and the most extreme members of his coalition reject.

Special on the Israel x Hamas war and the future of Gaza

Gantz, whose popularity has soared, said policy and investigations into the Oct. 7 failures should wait until the war subsides. As soldiers withdraw from Gaza, political observers are watching closely for signs that Gantz is ready to leave.

Gantz could trigger new elections in Israel by convincing five members of the ruling coalition, in which many have criticized Netanyahu, to join a vote of no confidence.

“As soon as Gantz feels like he can leave the war cabinet, that snowball will start rolling,” Talshir said. “This seems more possible as the situation in Gaza stabilizes.”

“Of course,” she added, “everything will change again when we have a second front with Hezbollah.” / TRANSLATION BY GUILHERME RUSSO