A week of attacks on Israel, including rockets fired from Lebanon, Gaza and Syria, represents the manifestation of an Iranian strategy to confront Israel with multiple threats on different fronts. Although different groups may be behind the attacks from those places, these groups are likely all linked to Iran. The groups involved include Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and others that may go by different or new names, but which are proxies of Tehran.
Iran has long sought to bring its conflict with Israel to the Jewish state’s borders. Its backing of Hezbollah and Hamas was key to that strategy over the decades. For instance, Tehran supplies Hamas with financial support and also helped it develop longer-range rockets and a larger arsenal. Whereas Hamas rockets could once only travel a few kilometers, now they can reach most parts of Israel.
The Islamic Republic also supported Islamic Jihad, which is even more of an Iranian proxy than Hamas. The group not only has an arsenal thought to include thousands of rockets, but it has gunmen in the West Bank and its leadership often resides in Damascus.
Hezbollah: Iran’s key ally in the multi-front war
Hezbollah is the largest of Iran’s key allies in the region. An organization with origins as far back as the 1980s, it was backed by the post-Shah then-new Islamic revolutionary regime of Tehran, and was able to build up a presence in Southern Lebanon.
The Lebanese terrorist group’s power has also grown exponentially since then. It not only has an arsenal of more than 100,000 rockets, but it has developed more sophisticated systems, such as precision-guided munitions. Along with Hamas, it also has drones that it has used to target Israel and to threaten energy exploration off the coast.
While Hamas has been mostly penned into Gaza since Israel’s withdrawal from the coastal enclave and the group’s victory in Palestinian elections, it now appears to be increasingly able to operate from Lebanon – with Hezbollah’s approval.
The fact that Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh flew to Lebanon on April 5, a day before 34 rockets were fired at Israel from there, shows how it has increased its presence. Hamas cannot fire rockets or operate from southern Lebanon without coordination with Hezbollah.
The rockets that were fired at Israel on April 6 were fired in broad daylight near Tyre. This is an area where Hezbollah has a presence. Last year, Hezbollah killed a UN Irish peacekeeper in Lebanon’s Al-Aqbieh north of Tyre. In May 2021, rockets were also fired at Israel from near the village of Seddiqine, also in the Tyre district.
Hezbollah has increased its operations abroad in recent years. This includes networks that stretch to West Africa and South America. The most important development is its operations in Syria, which began in 2012 in support of the Syrian regime. Hezbollah has moved forces to areas near the Golan, an area known as the group’s “Golan file,” according to reports from the Alma Research and Education Center, which covers threats in the North of Israel.
In 2019, Hezbollah even brought drones to this area to threaten the Jewish state. The threat was neutralized.
Other elements of Iran’s threats to Israel include militias in Syria and Iraq. These include the Iraqi-based Popular Mobilization Units and their factions such as Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq. Iran flew a drone into Israeli airspace from Iraq in May 2021. It also launched a drone at Israel last week from Syria.
Iran’s idea for a multi-front war is not new. It has been boasting in recent months about how Israel is internally collapsing, and it signaled that it wants to increase its threats. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said on Sunday that this year its power will grow compared to Israel’s. Jerusalem also carried out drills in May 2022 in preparation for the threat of a multi-front war. At the time, estimates said Israel’s adversaries could fire 1,500 rockets a day at the Jewish state.
Iran’s entrenchment in Syria
The multi-front war is made possible by Iran’s entrenchment in Syria. In the past, it could threaten Israel using Hezbollah in Lebanon or Islamic Jihad in the West Bank and Gaza, and Hamas in Gaza. Israel has launched operations to neutralize the Jihad and Hamas threats in the past. Since last year, it has also been battling Jihad gunmen in Jenin and other Palestinian factions that are emboldened against the Jewish state.
Israel has generally tried to isolate these threats, or at least manage these conflicts. Overall, it has concentrated more heavily on the Iranian threat and containing Iranian entrenchment in Syria. This operation has been called the “War Between the Wars” campaign and it has gone on for several years, involving many airstrikes on sites in Syria. This has also involved larger operations such as Operation House of Cards in Syria in 2018. Islamic Jihad was also targeted there in November 2019.
Nevertheless, the Iranian threat has not gone away and its proxies and allies appear to have begun a multi-front conflict with Israel over the past week. This involved the Iranian drone operation on April 1, Gaza rocket fire from April 5-7 and 34 rockets fired at Israel from Lebanon on Passover, April 6. In addition, there was rocket fire from Syria on April 8 and 9. There were also shooting attacks in the West Bank and a drone launched from Gaza on April 3.
When one looks at the larger picture, the Iranian octopus of partners and groups is seeking to threaten Israel from multiple areas. This is also unprecedented in terms of the rocket fire from Lebanon and Syria over such a small period of time. In general, peace has prevailed along the Lebanese border since 2006. Now Iran is showing it can heat up any border using various groups whenever it wants to.