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Will Israel's war spread north? The view from Lebanon with Kim Ghattas


Listen: How likely is it that the Israel-Hamas war spreads into a wider conflict in the Middle East? On the GZERO World Podcast, Ian Bremmer sits down with Beirut-based journalist and analyst Kim Ghattas for the on-the-ground perspective from across Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.

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Hezbollah militants take an oath as they stand near the coffin of their colleague who was killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers in south Lebanon

DPA/Pictures Alliance

Hezbollah: What is it?

In the weeks since Israel responded to Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attacks with airstrikes and a planned ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, a lot of attention has focused on Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese militant group that has threatened to enter the conflict to support Hamas.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is Hezbollah? It is a Shiite revolutionary militant and political group based in Lebanon. The name of the organization means “Party of God” in Arabic. It operates extensive social services and media networks, and it enjoys widespread support among Lebanon’s large Shiite population. Its political wing has held seats in Lebanon’s parliament for more than 30 years.

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Members of Hezbollah take part in the funeral of Hezbollah member Abbas Shuman

Reuters

Will Hezbollah enter the Israel-Hamas conflict or not?

It’s not quite the $64 million question, but it sure is the “100,000 rockets-and-missiles” question, as that’s the estimated size of the powerful Lebanese militant group’s current arsenal.

Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and has close ties with Hamas, has threatened an “earthquake” if Israel launches a full-scale ground invasion of the Gaza Strip as part of the ongoing response to Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist rampage in southern Israel. And recently, Hezbollah and Israeli forces have exchanged a patter of cross-border fire, while civilians on both sides of the frontier have been evacuated.

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Will Israel's war with Hamas spread north to Lebanon?
Will Israel's war with Hamas spread north to Lebanon? | GZERO World

Will Israel's war with Hamas spread north to Lebanon?

In Beirut, a little over 50 miles from the Israeli border, there are few signs of the violent conflict capturing the world's attention. At least for now. Further south, there have been almost daily exchanges of rocket fire between the Israeli Defense Forces and Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militant group that dominates southern Lebanon and is a regional power in its own right.

Fear is growing, even in the north, that the war between Israel and Hamas could spill over into a broader regional conflict, GZERO's Fin DePoncier reports from Beirut. But Lebanon is reeling from its own internal struggles–It suffered a devastating economic collapse in 2019 that was exacerbated by the 2020 pandemic and a deadly explosion at the Port of Beirut that caused billions in damage. It's also politically paralyzed; its divided parliament hasn't been able to elect a president since Michel Aoun left office in 2022.

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