Over the past several days, Iranian- backed Hezbollah group in southern Lebanon have been trading rockets into Israel in a series of tit-for-tat engagements that could lead to another conflict in the region. In the event of a full-blown military conflict with Israel – or any such scenario it is the people of Lebanon who invariably suffer.
Hezbollah says is has targeted open ground in retaliation for Israeli air strikes that also struck in open areas, with Israel warning that while it does not want to escalate to a full war, it is ready for one.
Worryingly too, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon says the situation is very serious and is urging all parties to cease fire. While there have been no reports of casualties or serious damage in the cross-border exchanges, the incidents are the most serious in the area since Israel and Hezbollah fought a one-month war in 2006. The reality though is that after 15 years of relative calm, there is no desire for this to escalate further.
For too long, the people of Lebanon have been suffering through a series of financial and humanitarian crises that have brought the nation to its lowest point since the dark days of its long civil war. Its economy is virtually collapsing, hyper-inflation is evident, and its currency has lost four-fifths of its value over the past two years.
It is but a year ago since the city of Beirut was rocked by a very serious explosion in its port – a blast the underscored the level of lawlessness and corruption that had pervaded its civil society. Alarmingly too, a succession of leaders and new cabinets have failed to tackle the most serious issues confronting the endemic economic, political and social problems and the increasingly pressing issue of the Hezbollah arsenal.
The group, most Lebanese say, is using its arms this under the instructions of the group’s sponsor, Iran, which is engaged in a shadowy war against Israel. The recent attack on the oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman is just one example.
Over these past 20 months too, Lebanese have endured through a pandemic that easily overwhelmed its creaking health systems, and centralised government action against the pandemic has been wanting, its vaccination programme depending on the generosity of international aid and health agencies.
It is a nation too that has been overwhelmed by the influx of Syrians forced from their homeland during a decade of civil war and vicious fighting. While nations such as France and its partners in the European Union and World Bank are prepared to assist with financial aid, those offers are largely dependent on Lebanon getting its house in order. And Hezbollah trading shots with Israel is the last things Lebanon needs.