That Israel is fighting a two-front, and perhaps even three-front, war with Iran became apparent following events in Syria and Gaza this week.
Let’s first take a look at what’s going on in Gaza, where Iran is funding Hamas’ latest terror campaign against Israel.
What began as an organized Palestinian mass protests against the ‘Israeli siege’ has now become a new type of warfare where Hamas and Islamic Jihad (both are funded and trained by the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)) are using incendiary kites and explosives-laden helium balloons to terrorize southern Israel.
This campaign has already caused more than 450 fires that destroyed 25,000 dunams of forests and agricultural fields, resulting in millions of dollars in damages.
Last weekend, the Israeli military started to treat the ‘Kite Jihad’ as a terror campaign, and introduced a tit-for-tat strategy that includes airstrikes on Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza, as well as attacks on cells that are responsible for organizing and carrying out the kite terror.
However, Israel has been unable to halt the ‘Kite Jihad,’ and Hamas has vowed to extend the campaign into next summer, claiming that the incendiary devices could eventually reach targets as far as 40 kilometers from the Gaza border.
On Tuesday night, the sides came close to all-out war when 45 rockets and mortar shells were fired into southern Israel after the IAF struck 25 terror-related targets in Gaza.
The IDF has said it is ready to enter Gaza whenever the Israeli government decides to put an end to the ‘Kite Jihad’ and the renewed rocket attacks on Israel.
An unnamed IDF official told the Israeli news site Ynet that Hamas is misreading the situation due to a perceived focus on the situation along the northern border. “They misunderstand us, and this could lead to a deterioration, at the end of which we would be back inside the Gaza Strip and they would realize they had made a mistake,” the source told Ynet.
IDF officers think that if Hamas continues its current escalation, the Israeli government would have no other choice than to call up reserve soldiers and order the army to move into Gaza. On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu seemed to confirm he could give a green light for a major IDF operation against the Iranian proxies in the coastal enclave.
“I do not intend to go into detail about what we are planning vis-a-vis Gaza.The intensity will be stepped up as necessary. We are prepared for any scenario and our enemies would do well to understand this – now,” Netanyahu said.
Hamas, for its part, made clear it is dead-set on “setting the rules of engagement the way it sees fit,” according to Palestinian media. “The resistance will not allow the Israeli occupation to isolate the Palestinian people or impose any new equations,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told Ma’an News in Bethlehem.
In Syria, meanwhile, Israel is continuing its efforts to halt the Iranian military build-up by launching airstrikes on Iran-related targets as far away as the Iraqi border. At the same time, the Netanyahu government has launched a diplomatic offensive to keep Iran and its proxies away from the Israeli border.
This past Monday, the IAF reportedly struck the Iranian-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah militia near the town of Qaim in the vicinity of the Albu Kamal border crossing on the Syrian-Iraqi border. The attack killed 52 members of the Iraqi militia, which is part of the Hashd al-Shaabi umbrella organization of Iraqi Shiite militias, and which takes its orders from Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the IRGC.
Kata’ib Hezbollah is led by Qais al-Khazali, who was spotted touring the Lebanese-Israeli border seven months ago. His appearance there was seen is a signal to Israel that Iran would use multiple fronts in any future attempt to destroy the Jewish state.
Netanyahu’s diplomatic efforts to curb Iranian ambitions have included leveraging his good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump. On Monday, Netanyahu visited Jordanian King Abdullah II in Amman and dispatched his national security adviser, Meir Ben Shabbat, to Moscow to discuss the situation.
It remains to be seen, however, if the diplomatic offensive will bear fruit, and if the increasing IAF strikes on Iran-related targets throughout Syria will deter Tehran from establishing the final stretch of the their land corridor to the Israeli border.
Hezbollah terrorists and members of other Iranian-backed Shiite militias have been spotted wearing Syrian army uniforms to disguise their presence near the Israeli border, while on Tuesday night the Syrian army finally started the long-anticipated offensive against rebels in the Daara province.
This happened despite repeated American warnings to the Assad regime and its allies to not breach the de-escalation agreement in southwest Syria, a move that could trigger an Israeli reaction.
In southern Lebanon, meanwhile, Hamas and Hezbollah are increasing cooperation and are training thousands of fighters while building new missile facilities in preparation for the future multi-front war with Israel.