Tensions in the Middle East continue to rise alarmingly. Recent provocations and attacks from Iran-backed militias in countries neighboring Israel, including Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq, have escalated concerns about a possible large-scale conflict.
The shift in atmosphere comes in the wake of the militant Islamist group Hamas' attacks on Israel, which has led to Israel's continued strikes on the Gaza Strip.
With the situation becoming more volatile, Jacob Kaarsbo, a senior analyst at Tænketanken Europa, now believes that a major war is probable. "Previously, I assessed it as a 50% likelihood. Now, I see it as more probable that we witness a large-scale war," Kaarsbo stated in an interview with TV 2.
Hezbollah Increases Attacks
Hezbollah, the Shia Muslim militia in Lebanon, has upped its attacks on Israel.
This, combined with other Iran-supported militias targeting Israeli and American bases in countries like Iraq, is raising international alarms.
Recently, the US Defense Department reported that a US warship in the Red Sea thwarted multiple missiles and drones from the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen that might have been directed towards Israel.
Despite facing challenges on multiple fronts, Israel's most significant military threat is reportedly from Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.
Kaarsbo suggests that Hezbollah, which is believed to have around three to four times the military capacity of Hamas, poses a significant threat. The balance of power between Israel and Hezbollah, which had been maintained since their last conflict in 2006, seems to be shifting.
Hezbollah's restraint from attacking Israel, even as Israel combats Hamas in the Gaza Strip, can be attributed to their domestic interests in Lebanon.
Kaarsbo points out, "Hezbollah is part of the government and also the most potent militia, so they have significant power. They walk a tightrope concerning whether they risk losing everything if they wage war against Israel."
Hospital Explosion Intensifies Tensions
Adding to the tension, an explosion at the Al-Ahli Arab Baptist Hospital in Gaza led to widespread protests across the Arab world. In response to the mounting conflict, the Israeli military ordered evacuations in Kiryat Simona, a city near the Lebanon border, and over 20 villages along the Israel-Lebanon boundary.
The heightened conflict prompted the US to deploy the USS Gerald R. Ford, the world's largest aircraft carrier, off Israel's coast.
The US is also set to dispatch multiple fighter jets, including F-35s, F-15s, F-16s, and A-10s to the region. US President Joe Biden recently visited Israel, meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A planned meeting with leaders from Egypt and the Palestinian Authority was however called off following the hospital explosion.
Amidst these escalations, the US has raised its threat level for Lebanon, and Denmark has updated its travel advisory for the nation, cautioning its citizens of a high security risk and advising against all travels.
Meanwhile, civilian casualties continue to mount. Over 4000 Palestinians have reportedly been killed in Israeli strikes since October 7, while around 1500 deaths have been attributed to Hamas' attacks on Israel.
Humanitarian aid is still awaited by the civilian population in Gaza, even as Israel, the US, and Egypt have agreed to allow 20 trucks carrying emergency supplies into the region.