People gather near ambulances at a damaged site of what security sources said was an Israeli strike in Nabatieh, southern Lebanon, on February 15, 2024. Image Credit: REUTERS

BEIRUT: The slow-simmering cross-border conflict between Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group and Israeli forces escalated on Wednesday, reviving fears that the daily clashes could expand into an all-out war.

A rocket fired from Lebanon struck the northern Israeli town of Safed, killing a 20-year-old female soldier and wounding at least eight people.

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Israel responded with airstrikes that killed at least 11 people in southern Lebanon, including a Syrian woman, her two children, four members of another family and three Hezbollah militants. At least nine people were wounded.

The cross-border violence was triggered by the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, which in turn was set off by the October 7 attack on southern Israel by Hamas, a Hezbollah ally.

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Hezbollah did not claim responsibility for Wednesday’s strike. But it has vowed to continue its attacks until there is a ceasefire in Gaza. Amid fears of a further escalation, here’s a look at the arsenals of the two sides:


Hezbollah is the Arab world’s most significant paramilitary force with a robust internal structure as well as a sizeable arsenal. Backed by Iran, its militants have gained experience during Syria’s 13-year conflict in which they helped tip the balance of power in favour of government forces.

Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah had boasted that the group has 100,000 fighters, though other estimates put its troop strength at less than half that. Israel wants Hezbollah to withdraw its elite Radwan Force from the border so tens of thousands Israelis displaced from northern towns and villages can return home.

Civil defence and rescue workers remove the rubble from the building after an Israeli strike. Image Credit: AP

Hezbollah holds a vast arsenal of mostly small, portable and unguided surface-to-surface artillery rockets, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. The US and Israel estimate Hezbollah and other militant groups in Lebanon have some 150,000 missiles and rockets. Hezbollah also has been working on precision-guided missiles.

Hezbollah has previously launched drones into Israel and in 2006, hit an Israeli warship with a surface-to-sea missile. Its forces also have assault rifles, heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, roadside bombs and other weaponry.

During the current conflict, Hezbollah has frequently used Russian-made portable anti-tank Kornet missiles. More rarely, it has launched Burkan rockets that, according to Nasrallah, can carry a warhead that weighs between 300 kilos (660 pounds) and 500 kilos (1,100 pounds).

In recent weeks, Hezbollah has introduced new weapons including a surface-to-surface missile with a range of 10km (6 miles) and a warhead weighing 50 kilos (110 pounds).


Israel’s military has long been supported by the United States, with $3.3 billion in annual funding, plus $500 million toward missile defence technology.

Israel is one of the best-armed nations in the wider Middle East. Its air force includes the advanced American F-35 fighter jet, missile defence batteries including the American-made Patriot, the Iron Dome rocket-defence system and a pair of missile-defence systems developed with the US, the Arrow and David’s Sling.

An Israeli medical team transports a person wounded in a rocket attack fired from southern Lebanon, at Ziv hospital in Israel's northern city of Safed on February 14, 2024. Image Credit: AFP

Israel has armoured personnel carriers and tanks, and a fleet of drones and other technology available to support any street-to-street battles.

Israel has some 170,000 troops typically on active duty and has called up some 360,000 reservists for the war — three-fourths of its estimated capacity, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a British think tank. With the war now in its fifth month, many of those reservists have returned home.

Israel has also long maintained an undeclared nuclear weapons programme.


While most analysts believe there is little appetite for a full-blown war by either Hezbollah or Israel, there are fears that a miscalculation by either side could trigger a major escalation.

The US, France and other countries have dispatched diplomats in recent weeks to try to tamp down tensions on the border.

Speaking on Tuesday, Nasrallah responded to threats by Israeli officials to launch an offensive if his group does not pull its forces back from the border. “If you expand (the conflict), we will expand,” he said.

Wednesday’s exchange of strikes, some of which hit relatively far from the border area, is a clear indication of the risks that the violence could spill out of control.

The two sides fought a 34-day war in 2006 that ended in a draw.