Netanyahu says Israel 'prepared for very intense action' against Iran-backed Hezbollah amid rising tensions

JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Wednesday morning that the Jewish state is “prepared for very intense action in the north” in response to the Lebanese terrorist movement Hezbollah’s continued rocket and drone attacks into northern Israel.

Speaking from an Israeli military base in Kiryat Shmona, Netanyahu declared, “We said, at the start of the war, that we would restore security in both the south and the north – and this is what we are doing. Today I am on the northern border with our heroic fighters and commanders, as well as with our firefighters. Yesterday the ground burned here, and I am pleased that you have extinguished it, but ground also burned in Lebanon.”

The Israeli leader continued, “Whoever thinks he can hurt us, and we will respond by sitting on our hands is making a big mistake. We are prepared for very intense action in the north. One way or another, we will restore security to the north.”

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Up to 80,000 Israelis have left the border areas since Oct. 7 as Hezbollah has stepped up a mini-war against Israel as the Iranian proxy has added pressure on the Jewish state. Earlier this week, parts of northern Israel were consumed by flames as a result of a massive barrage by the terror group. 

“Israel from the very beginning, said first Gaza and then deal with north,” Brig. Gen. (Res) Amir Avivi, a former deputy commander of the Israel Defense Forces’ Gaza Division, told Fox News Digital.

“In the coming weeks, the main missions in Rafah will end. Most of the troops will be sent north and there will be a threat to Hezbollah, calling them to retreat, according to U.N. resolution 1701, and if they don’t retreat, and if there is no American leadership threatening Hezbollah or Iran, and no international pressure, Israel will have to attack and do a ground incursion into south Lebanon while destroying most of Hezbollah’s long-range capabilities,” he said.

The United Nations and the West have failed, according to Avivi, to enforce U.N. resolution 1701, which requires that Hezbollah disarm. Avivi, the founder of the Israel Defense and Security Forum (IDSF), argued that Hezbollah is exploiting “the weakness of the West in their inability to threaten them.”

Citing the World Factbook of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, Reuters reported that Hezbollah is believed to have upwards of 150,000 missiles and rockets. Reuters noted, “Hezbollah says it has rockets that can hit all areas of Israel. Many of the rockets are unguided, but it also has precision missiles, drones and anti-tank, anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles.”

Avivi continued, “This is going to be a war but not similar to Gaza because it is going to be a short war because both sides can’t afford the destruction that will follow up. Therefore, the attack will be fierce. Hezbollah will probably shoot Haifa and Tel Aviv and so on. I would assume that this will be a month or month and half war. Following that, Israel will take over the whole southern part of Lebanon, creating the terms for the return of the citizens.”

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Also, on Wednesday, following a shooting attack in the vicinity of the U.S. embassy near Beirut, the embassy put out a notice warning that “U.S. citizens should avoid travel to the Lebanon-Israel border area, the Lebanon-Syria border area, and refugee settlements.”

Israeli news agency TPS-IL reported that Hezbollah struck the Israeli village of Hurfeish on Wednesday evening, wounding 11 people with three reported to be in critical condition.

Israel has fought two full-scale wars against Hezbollah in Lebanon, in 1982 and 2006.

U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said on Tuesday, “We do not support a full war with Hezbollah. We don’t want to see that happen. Now that said, Israel has the right to defend itself from Hezbollah’s attacks. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that is committed to the destruction of Israel and has launched attacks against Israel for years. And so, Israel has the right to defend itself, and it has the right to deal with that threat.”

Miller added, “You can understand why it is not a tenable situation for Israel to see tens of thousands of its citizens continue to be displaced from their homes and why they would want to do something about it. But ultimately, we’ve heard Israeli leaders say the solution that they prefer is a diplomatic solution, and obviously, that is the solution that we prefer too and that we’re trying to pursue.”

Fox News Digital spoke to leading experts on Hezbollah, both of whom were born in Lebanon.

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The Israeli expert on Lebanon and Hezbollah, Edy Cohen, who is a researcher at the Eitan Center, told Fox News Digital, “Hezbollah from the first day said that it will help the Gaza front. Hezbollah said it will not stop shelling Israel until Israel stops the war in Gaza. The Israeli strategy, in my point of view, has failed because the Israeli strategy did not confront the Lebanese identity for being responsible for this war.”

European countries like France view the Lebanese state as separate from Hezbollah. However, many experts, including Cohen and others, assess the Iran regime-backed Hezbollah as the real de facto ruler of the small Mediterranean state.

He said Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant repeatedly threatened Hezbollah and Lebanon that “We will return them to the stone age” in Lebanon. Cohen said the problem is Gallant’s threats are merely “words.”

Cohen said, “Israel must expand the war to Beirut and not just to the south of Lebanon.” He believes Israel will target Beirut. Cohen noted that Hezbollah has absorbed many hits from Israel’s military. “More than 330 Hezbollah terrorists were killed from Oct. 8 and Hezbollah has lost many arms and munitions… and more than 100,000 people were evacuated from the south of Lebanon. They suffer, and they don’t say it because they are not a democratic country.”

If the Lebanese complain, they might be killed or beaten by Hezbollah, said Cohen.

Dr. Walid Phares, a Lebanese-American academic expert on the Mideast, told Fox News Digital, “Hezbollah fires missiles or drones on Israel in very close connection with Iran’s regime. This is not Hezbollah’s war with Israel. This is the Islamic Republic’s war with Israel using Hezbollah. It is that close. Hezbollah is integrated into the Iran regime command. Every rocket thrown at Israel, the order came from Tehran.”

The Iranian clerical regime in Tehran does not care about “the destruction in Lebanon,” Phares said.

Phares said the Lebanese government is controlled by Hezbollah. Phares, who has advised U.S. presidential candidates, said an important option for Israel and the U.S. is to “change the game,” which would mean “having Lebanese, or free Lebanese, rising against Hezbollah inside Lebanon, a resistance movement, an opposition. That will change things and will put pressure on Hezbollah inside Lebanon. This needs two things: An Israeli decision to engage with the Lebanese people, but it also needs more, the Biden administration to support the anti-Hezbollah forces inside Lebanon.”

Fox News Digital approached the State Department for a comment about whether the U.S. will take action to compel the U.N. to enforce resolution 1701 and introduce new sanctions on Hezbollah.

Reuters and THE Associated Press contributed to this report.

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