The risk of the conflict in the Middle East with Hezbollah spreading to Lebanon

Last night the Jerusalem Air Force launched a wave of strikes in southern and deep Lebanon in response to Hezbollah's continued missile launches aimed at northern Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Wednesday that “Israel is prepared with an extremely powerful response” to Hezbollah's attacks, which have intensified exponentially in recent days. “Anyone who thinks they can harm us and that we will be left idle is very wrong,” Netanyahu said during a visit to the northern town of Kiryat Shmona, which has been largely evacuated since the Pakistan-based terror group Lebanon started attacking Israel. Subsequently, speaking at an event to commemorate Jerusalem Day, Netanyahu again promised that Israel would restore calm in the north, no matter the cost: «Iran is trying to suffocate and encircle us and we are reacting directly and with its delegates,” Netanyahu said. He then concluded «we cannot accept that the situation in the north continues, it will not continue. We will return residents to their homes and restore safety.” During his speech at the same event, Israeli President Isaac Herzog issued a warning to the international community regarding the need to contain Iran and Hezbollah before the situation spirals out of control: «I address the international community and its leaders from this place, underlining that we cannot remain indifferent to this terrorism that comes from Lebanon and other areas. For months, Israel has been subjected to daily attacks by Iranian agents operating in Lebanon, in a clear violation of all international agreements and resolutions,” Herzog said.

Hezbollah is a military power

Beyond the muscular declarations, a concrete expansion of the conflict to Lebanon is very risky for Israel given that Hezbollah is certainly not Hamas or Islamic Jihad. Hezbollah, a Lebanese Islamic Shiite political-military faction, possesses a military arsenal that is considered more powerful than the Lebanese army and is comparable to the armed strength of a medium-sized army. Hezbollah is known for its vast collection of missiles and rockets, with capabilities ranging from short-range rockets to long-range weapons capable of striking deep inside Israeli territory. It is estimated that they possess between 130,000 and 150,000 missiles and rockets such as the Katyusha, Fajr, Zelzal, M-600, YaZah and Fateh-110 and according to experts, the number of Hezbollah military formations could vary from 20 to 30 thousand militants.

Also of concern is the fact that Hezbollah is equipped with drones including the Mirsad-1 which reportedly has a range of around 200 km. the Ayoub, a derivative of the Shahed-129 with a range of over 1,600 km as well as having access to other Iranian-made drones, such as the Karrar, Mohajer and Sammad. Another element of concern is that Hezbollah has recently used a new type of kamikaze drone capable of launching S-5 air-to-surface missiles against targets and subsequently continuing its path until exploding on a specific target. This innovative drone does not need to return to base, being launched by a booster which eliminates the need for a landing strip. This technology allows Hezbollah to conduct air strikes without depending on airports or runways, thus increasing their offensive capability in the air. At the moment, Hezbollah has not revealed the name or technical specifications of this new drone. On May 16, Hezbollah carried out an attack against the Metula outpost, located in the north of the occupied territories, using a drone and two S-5 rockets. The operation hit the target with extreme precision. In particular, the Lebanese Resistance used an Iranian Ababil-2 suicide drone and two S-5 rockets of Soviet origin. The drone's operational mode involves firing rockets at an Israeli military vehicle before performing a suicide dive on the target.

New F35s for Israel

Speaking of Jerusalem, the Israeli Ministry of Defense has signed an agreement with the US government for the third squadron of Adir aircraft (F-35), which will be integrated into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The Israeli Ministry of Defense Mission in the United States has officially signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) to acquire the third squadron of F-35s for the Israeli Air Force. The agreement was signed by Brig. Gen. (ret.) Mishel Ben Baruch, head of the mission. It includes 25 F-35 aircraft produced by Lockheed Martin, complete with support and maintenance services. With the completion of this program, the Israeli Air Force will expand its fleet to 75 of these advanced stealth aircraft. Delivery of aircraft to the IDF will begin in 2028 at a rate of between three and five aircraft per year. The transaction is worth approximately three billion dollars, financed by the United States Foreign Military Financing. Under the original agreement between the governments, plane maker Lockheed Martin and engine maker Pratt & Whitney committed to involving Israeli industry in the production of F-35 planes sold to U.S. forces and other countries. The acquisition of these platforms is part of a comprehensive initiative that the Ministry of Defense and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have promoted over the past two years to strengthen their capabilities and strengthen their leverage in response to existing and future threats . For Defense Minister Yoav Gallant: «The acquisition of the third squadron of F-35s reflects the strength of the strategic alliance between Israel and the United States. This ability has a significant impact on arenas near and far. As some of our adversaries seek to undermine our ties with our greatest ally, we only further strengthen our alliance. This sends a powerful message to our enemies across the region. I would like to express my appreciation and gratitude to our partners in the US Department of Defense and the American government at large for strengthening and ensuring Israel's strategic advantage and capabilities.” Director General of the Ministry of Defense, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Eyal Zamir said: «Initiated by the Israeli Ministry of Defense and the IDF before the war and approved by the Minister of Defense, the signing of the agreement on the F35 squadron concludes an important procurement process and has been accelerated during it. The Adir program and other initiatives we are pursuing will help ensure the continued readiness of the IDF and the Air Force for multi-threat challenges in the coming years to the United States government, whose senior representatives we met last week at Washington, for supporting Israel's security needs and maintaining its qualitative and technological advantage for years to come.”

Lotar, the new Special Anti-Terrorism Unit

The Israeli army has formalized the creation of a new special anti-terrorism unit called “Lothar”. Its objective, after the lessons learned from the Hamas attack on 7 October, is to “provide a rapid and immediate response to terrorist incidents” in the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip. The Unit is made up of reservists, veterans of elite units who live in or near those communities. On May 24, the IDF announced the first deployment of the Lotar unit in the battle against Hamas' attempt to regroup in Jabalya, northern Gaza. The Israeli army has communicated through the media that it will begin to present the results of the investigation into the failure that preceded the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack starting next month. According to the IDF schedule, the first part of the investigation will be presented to Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi in ​​early July, followed by subsequent ones. The investigation also covers battles against Hamas between October 7 and 10, when Israeli troops regained control of communities and military bases in southern Israel that had been overrun by Hamas. There are around 40 battle sites and more than 20 army commanders under scrutiny. All this is happening while Hamas has once again thrown away the mask by rejecting the agreement proposed by the US for the simple reason that there are no more or almost no hostages to be exchanged and this is also why Israel must continue its work of destroying the jihadist group.

Hezbollah's response. Italian Israeli soldier killed

Finally, as we write, we learn that Rafael Kauders, a 39-year-old Italian-Israeli reservist, was killed during a Hezbollah attack in northern Israel.

Rafael Kauders

Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani announced the news on X, expressing his deepest condolences to Kauders' family, who are very active in the Italian community in Israel. The Israeli army had already announced the sad news of Kauders' death in the morning.