It's Now or Never
As thousands are killed in Gaza and Israel invades the Strip, Nasrallah finally speaks, and the Axis of Resistance faces the ultimate test of its purpose.
27 days. That was how long Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, waited to speak about the war that had erupted in Gaza. To many of his supporters, 27 days felt like an eternity.
Hamas’ attacks against Israeli settlements around Gaza on October 7th that had killed 307 soldiers, 58 police officers, and over a thousand civilians, had rapidly shifted the strategic calculus in Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine. In its immediate aftermath, many wondered how those opposed to Israel would respond: if they would blink, or if things would rapidly spin out of control.
The success of Hamas’ unprecedented breaching of the fences around Gaza and temporary seizing of swathes of Israeli territory, something never achieved by any Arab army since the State of Israel’s founding, was owed to its secrecy. The Palestinian group’s closest allies appeared to have been kept entirely in the dark, and some reports even indicated that Hamas’ political bureau, many of them having been based in Qatar for many years, had been kept in the dark as well.
Despite this secrecy and surprise, Hezbollah nevertheless quickly sprung into action. The day after the Hamas attack, as Palestinian fighters survived the night and continued to fight in the so-called “Gaza envelope”, Hezbollah artillery began firing on Israeli military positions on the border with Lebanon. The exchange of fire was relatively minor, not unprecedented (cross-border shellings come and go seemingly every several months, regardless of conflict in Palestine).
But then there came infiltrations from Palestinian Islamic Jihad, now attacking not just from Gaza, but from Lebanese territory as well. Then Hamas fighters stationed in Lebanon joined their ranks. Then came shelling into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights from Syria. And then there came the threats from the leader of the Houthis, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi himself, that if American intervention came to Gaza’s shores, his forces would send drones and missiles from Yemen. On this matter, al-Houthi was remarkably clear and blunt about the intent of the Houthi movement in this war (officially known as Ansar Allah), their difficulties, and what they could do from Yemen.
“Our people [Yemenis] are ready to send hundreds of thousands of mujahidin [fighters] into Palestine. Sure, geography might pose a problem. It could be a problem for our people to go there in large numbers. Nevertheless, despite all the obstacles, we won’t hesitate to do whatever we can.”
“In the framework of this coordination [with the Axis of Resistance], there are red lines, a certain scale of events. One of them is a scenario in which the Americans militarily intervene directly. Now they are providing aid to Israel, to the Israeli enemy. If they intervene directly, then we are prepared to join the fray, using rocket strikes, drones, or any other military option we can.”
For a moment in that week following the Hamas attack, it felt as though war the likes of which the region hadn’t seen in decades was just around the corner. Arab nations, having long-since abandoned military hostility with Israel, now had been replaced with Arab militias, who had been created and trained for the sole purpose of fighting Israel and who, feasibly, would create a battle that the IDF could very well not be prepared for.
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Days passed. Then weeks. What had once looked like a pressure cooker rigged to explode now was looking more like a slowly boiling pot. As the immense death toll in Gaza rose and rose, Hezbollah continued its strikes against IDF positions. Israel continued to warn of the threat of war that would rock Lebanon to its foundations, and though 8 Israeli soldiers had been killed, Hezbollah had taken far more casualties by the IDF’s hand.
57 Hezbollah fighters have as of this writing died as a result of Israeli strikes inside Lebanon. In the entirety of the 2006 Lebanon War, in which Israel attempted to launch a land invasion of the country, 250 Hezbollah fighters had been killed over the course of a little over a month. Over a fifth of that number had now been killed without the IDF ever having crossed the border.
As Hezbollah continued to hold off on what many anticipated, i.e. a full-scale assault on Israel, the red line the Houthis had set appeared to have been crossed. American Delta Force commandos were now on the ground in Israel, to say nothing of the now two aircraft carriers heading toward the Israeli coast. Ansar Allah officially stepped in and began firing ballistic missiles and drones, first at American naval ships that had been stationed in the Red Sea, and then toward Eilat, Israel’s sole Red Sea port. Yemen obviously has no border with Israel, its distance from the Jewish state both an impediment to what it could do but also a significant protection from military retaliation. But despite its immense poverty, the Houthis had now entered the war against Israel with significant firepower, firepower that Hezbollah had yet to use.
The question was on everyone’s lips: Where was Nasrallah?
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