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Hezbollah Tells Iran It Would Fight Alone in War With Israel

A supporter of Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah holds his picture during a rally commemorating the group’s late leaders in Beirut’s southern suburbs, Lebanon, Feb. 16, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

With ally Hamas under attack in Gaza, the head of Iran’s Quds Force visited Beirut in February to discuss the risk posed if Israel next aims at Lebanon’s Hezbollah, an offensive that could severely hurt Tehran’s main regional partner, seven sources said.

In Beirut, Quds chief Esmail Qaani met Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the sources said, for at least the third time since Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 attacks on southern Israel and Israel‘s military response in Gaza.

The conversation turned to the possibility of a full Israeli offensive to its north, in Lebanon, the sources said. As well as damaging the Shi’ite Islamist terrorist group, such an escalation could pressure Iran to react more forcefully than it has so far since Oct. 7, three of the sources, Iranians within the inner circle of power, said.

Over the past five months, Hezbollah, a sworn enemy of Israel, has shown support for fellow Iran-backed terrorist group Hamas in the form of volleys of rockets fired across Israel‘s northern border.

At the previously unreported meeting, Nasrallah reassured Qaani he didn’t want Iran to get sucked into a war with Israel or the United States and that Hezbollah would fight on its own, all the sources said.

“This is our fight,” Nasrallah told Qaani, said one Iranian source with knowledge of the discussions.

Calibrated to avoid a major escalation, the skirmishes in Lebanon have nonetheless pushed tens of thousands of people from their homes on either side of the border. Israeli strikes have killed more than 200 Hezbollah fighters and some 50 civilians in Lebanon, while attacks from Lebanon into Israel have killed a dozen Israeli soldiers and six civilians.

In recent days, Israel‘s counter-strikes have increased in intensity and reach, fueling fears the violence could spin out of control even if negotiators achieve a temporary truce in Gaza.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant indicated in February that Israel planned to increase attacks to decisively remove Hezbollah fighters from the border in the event of a Gaza ceasefire, although he left the door open for diplomacy.

In 2006, Israel fought a short but intense air and ground war with Hezbollah that was devastating for Lebanon.

Israeli security sources have said previously that Israel did not seek any spread of hostilities but added that the country was prepared to fight on new fronts if needed. An all-our war on its northern border would stretch Israel’s military resources.

Iran and Hezbollah are mindful of the grave perils of a wider war in Lebanon, two of the sources aligned with the views of the government in Tehran said, including the danger it could spread and lead to strikes on Iran’s nuclear installations.

The US lists Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism and has sought for years to rein in Tehran’s nuclear program. Israel has long considered Iran an existential threat.

For this story, Reuters spoke to four Iranian and two regional sources, along with a Lebanese source who confirmed the thrust of the meeting. Two US sources and an Israeli source said Iran wanted to avoid blowback from a Israel-Hezbollah war. All requested anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

The US State Department, Israel‘s government, Tehran, and Hezbollah did not respond to requests for comment.

The Beirut meeting highlights strain on Iran’s strategy of avoiding major escalation in the region while projecting strength and support for Gaza across the Middle East through allied armed groups in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, analysts said.

Qaani and Nasrallah “want to further insulate Iran from the consequences of supporting an array of proxy actors throughout the Middle East,” said Jon Alterman of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, responding to a question about the meeting.

“Probably because they assess that the possibility of military action in Lebanon is increasing and not decreasing.”

Already, Tehran’s carefully-nurtured influence in the region is being curtailed, including by Israel‘s offensive against Hamas along with potential US-Saudi defense and Israel-Saudi normalization agreements, as well as US warnings that Iran should not get involved in the Hamas-Israel conflict.


Qaani and Nasrallah between them hold sway over tens of thousands of fighters and a vast arsenal of rockets and missiles. They are main protagonists in Tehran’s network of allies and proxy militias, with Qaani’s elite Quds Force acting as the foreign legion of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a US-designated terrorist group.

While Hezbollah has publicly indicated it would halt attacks on Israel when the Israeli offensive in Gaza stops, US Special Envoy Amos Hochstein said last week a Gaza truce would not automatically trigger calm in southern Lebanon.

Arab and Western diplomats report that Israel has expressed strong determination to no longer allow the presence of Hezbollah’s main fighters along the border, fearing an attack similar to Hamas’ Oct. 7 incursion that killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostages.

“If there is a ceasefire in [Gaza], there are two schools of thought in Israel and my impression is that the one that would recommend continuing the war on the border with Hezbollah is the stronger one,” said Sima Shine, a former Israeli intelligence official who is currently head of the Iran program at the Institute for National Security Studies:

A senior Israeli official agreed that Iran was not seeking a full-blown war, noting Tehran’s restrained response to Israel‘s offensive on Hamas.

“It seems that they feel they face a credible military threat. But that threat may need to become more credible,” the official said.

Washington, via Hochstein, and France have been working on diplomatic proposals that would move Hezbollah fighters from the border area in line with UN resolution 1701 that helped end the 2006 war, but a deal remains elusive.


A war in Lebanon that seriously degrades Hezbollah would be a major blow for Iran, which relies on the group founded with its support in 1982 as a bulwark against Israel and to buttress its interests in the broader region, two regional sources said.

“Hezbollah is in fact the first line of defense for Iran,” said Abdulghani Al-Iryani, a senior researcher at the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, a think tank in Yemen.

If Israel were to launch major military action on Hezbollah, the Iranian sources within the inner circle of power said, Tehran may find itself compelled to intensify its proxy war.

An Iranian security official acknowledged however that the costs of such an escalation could be prohibitively high for Iran’s allied groups. Direct involvement by Iran, he added, could serve Israel‘s interests and provide justification for the continued presence of US troops in the region.

Given Tehran’s extensive, decades-long ties with Hezbollah, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to put distance between them, one US official said.

Since the Hamas attack on Israel, Iran has given its blessing to actions in support of its ally in Gaza, including attacks by Iraqi groups on US interests. It has also supplied intelligence and weapons for Houthi operations against shipping in the Red Sea.

But it has stopped well short of an unfettered multi-front war on Israel that, three Palestinian sources said, Hamas had expected Iran to support after Oct. 7.

Before the Beirut encounter with Nasrallah, Qaani chaired a two-day meeting in Iran in early February along with militia commanders of operations in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, three Hezbollah representatives, and a Houthi delegation, one Iranian official said.

Revolutionary Guard’s Commander-in-Chief Major General Hossein Salami was also present, the official said. Hamas did not attend.

“At the end, all the participants agreed that Israel wanted to expand the war and falling in that trap should be avoided as it will justify the presence of more US troops in the region,” the official said.

Shortly after, Qaani engineered a pause in attacks by the Iraqi groups. So far, Hezbollah has kept its tit-for-tat responses within what observers have called unwritten rules of engagement with Israel.

Despite decades of proxy conflict since Iran’s 1979 revolution, the Islamic Republic has never directly fought in a war with Israel, and all four Iranian sources said there was no appetite for that to change.

According to the Iranian insider, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is not inclined to see a war unfold on Iran, where domestic discontent with the ruling system last year spilled over into mass protests.

“The Iranians are pragmatists and they are afraid of the expansion of the war,” said Iryani.

“If Israel were alone, they would fight, but they know that if the war expands, the United States will be drawn in.”

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Palestinian Islamic Jihad Releases Second Video of Israeli Hostage Sasha Troufanov

Israeli hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov as seen in an undated propaganda video released by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group on May 30, 2024. Photo: Screenshot

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group on Thursday released a second propaganda video this week featuring Israeli hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov, 28, who was kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists during Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.

In the video, Trufanov says he is doing well and criticizes Israel’s prime minister and government in remarks that were likely scripted by his captors.

There was no information about when the video was filmed. However, Trufanov refers to Israel’s decision on May 5 to order the local offices of Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite news network to close, indicating he may have been filmed in the last few weeks.

The latest video came just two days after Islamic Jihad, an Iran-backed Palestinian terrorist group in Gaza, released its first video featuring Trufanov.

The 30-second undated video shows Trufanov, an Amazon employee, identifying himself and saying that he will soon discuss what has happened to him and other hostages in Gaza.

Similar videos have been released by terrorists groups in Gaza. Israel has lambasted them as psychological warfare meant to torture the Israeli public, especially the families of the hostages being held in Gaza.

Trufanov’s mother said after the first video was released that she was happy to see her son after all this time, but it was “heartbreaking” that he had been a hostage for so long.

“Seeing my Sasha on my TV was very cheering, but it also breaks my heart that he’s still been in captivity for so long,” she said in a video released by the family. “I ask everyone, all the decision-makers: Please do everything, absolutely everything, to bring my son and all the hostages home now.”

Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists abducted over 250 people during their Oct. 7 onslaught. Sasha was kidnapped alongside his mother, grandmother, and girlfriend. All three women were released as part of a temporary ceasefire agreement negotiated in November. His father, Vitaly Trufanov, was one of the 1,200 people killed during the Hamas massacre.

“The proof of life from Alexsander (Sasha) Trufanov is additional evidence that the Israeli government must give a significant mandate to the negotiating team,” the Hostages Families Forum, which represents the families of the hostages, said in a statement.

More than 120 hostages remain in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas. Islamic Jihad is a separate but allied terrorist organization in the Palestinian enclave. Both are backed by Iran, which provides them with money, weapons, and training.

Negotiations brokered by Qatar, Egypt, and the US to reach a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas in Gaza have been stalled for weeks.

Trufanov was an engineer at the Israeli microelectronics company Annapurna Labs, which Amazon owns.

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Israel’s Kafkaesque Ordeal at the ICC

Proceedings at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, February 16, 2021. Photo: ICC-CPI/Handout via Reuters.

Israel is facing unprecedented and bizarre proceedings at the International Criminal Court (ICC), crescendoing with a request by Prosecutor Karim Khan for arrest warrants against its sitting Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant.

These events are the result of a multi-faceted and long-developing campaign by anti-Israel activists that has largely advanced under the radar.

Firstly, Israel is not a member of the Court and does not recognize ICC jurisdiction over its actions. In the late 1990s, Israel was initially a strong backer of the ICC, but during the drafting of the Court’s governing Rome Statute, the Arab League blocked efforts to include terrorism as an international crime and helped invent a new crime that would specifically target Israeli activity across the 1949 armistice lines. For these reasons, Israel refused to ratify the Rome Statute and join the Court.

In any other situation, this would be the end of the matter. However, beginning in 2009, the Palestinian Authority (PA), acting in collaboration with UN Rapporteurs and European-funded NGOs linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group, attempted to join the Court.

Rather than dismiss the PA’s effort immediately because the PA is not a state — and ICC membership is only available to states — the ICC Prosecutor at the time, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, launched a PR campaign to ostensibly “debate” the issue. Three years later, he rejected the PA’s application, but instead provided a blueprint facilitating the Palestinians’ ability to circumvent the clear standards of the Rome Statute.

In November 2012, the Palestinians succeeded in upgrading their status at the UN to “non-member observer state.” Merely on the basis of this semantic, rather than substantive change, ICC officials allowed the Palestinians to game the system and join the Court.

Despite these machinations and exploitation of the Court, the next Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, filed a request with the Court’s Pre-Trial chamber (PTC) in December 2019 seeking authorization to open an investigation into crimes allegedly committed on the territory of the “State of Palestine,” despite the fact that this state does not exist and has no defined territory. Moreover, she argued that the Court could proceed against Israelis, regardless of whether it was a member of the Court.

This action, endorsed by the PTC in February 2021 in a controversial 2-1 opinion, essentially eviscerated the Oslo Accords, the agreement mutually agreed to between Israel and the PLO in the mid-1990s, which lays out governance of the West Bank and Gaza.

A key provision of the Accords is that the PA would not have any authority to exercise or delegate any criminal jurisdiction over Israelis to the Court. The Prosecutor and the Court completely ignored this issue.

In yet another unbelievable move, the Court next also allowed the Palestinians to retroactively assign temporal jurisdiction going back to June 13, 2014, precisely the day after the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three Israeli teenagers, which triggered the war that summer. This meant that Hamas’ brutal murder and kidnapping of Jews, a preview of what Israel would experience on a larger scale on October 7, would get a free pass from the Court.

Fast-forward to Khan’s move to file for arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant. Here, too, the Prosecutor’s office engaged in highly questionable conduct. Khan could have already issued indictments against Hamas leaders on October 7 itself, when their flagrant crimes were broadcast around the world. Instead, he chose to wait until after manufactured allegations of “starvation” could be crafted against Israeli officials. He also inexplicably ignored thousands of other war crimes, including each rocket attack on Israel, committed by Palestinians since 2014.

In yet another outrageous move, at the time of the announcement, Khan’s team had been scheduled to attend meetings in Israel. However, the planned trip appears to have been a bad faith ruse. Instead of the team boarding the plane, Khan went on CNN to tell Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview about the arrest warrant requests. It doesn’t take an expert in communications to know that such a step would generate a storm of PR almost solely focused on Israel, meaning attention on the Hamas atrocities and real crimes committed on October 7 would be virtually ignored.

One also wonders if any mind was paid to what this action might mean for any hope of a ceasefire to secure the release of the hostages.

Egregiously, Khan’s actions offended another cornerstone of the Rome Statute, that of complementarity. The ICC is only supposed to act as a court of last resort in situations where a judicial system is unable or unwilling to investigate international crimes. As he himself acknowledged on a visit to Israel in early December, Israel has robust investigatory mechanisms and judiciary — one that has never shied away from intervening in military matters, nor in going after the most senior officials, including prime ministers.

Instead of giving the Israeli system a reasonable time to proceed, however, the Prosecutor disregarded the complementarity requirement and decided to bulldoze forward. In contrast, although Khan has had for years the jurisdiction to act against President Maduro in Venezuela, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and military junta in Myanmar — authoritarian governments responsible for horrific atrocities — no cases have been filed.

Multiple procedural irregularities and political maneuverings of the Office of Prosecutor have been well-documented, and there are several other disturbing aspects to the “Situation in Palestine” not mentioned here. For years, the ICC has been under intense criticism for its lack of accomplishments in its more than 20 years of operation. Khan was brought in to serve as a sober and responsible actor to right the ship. The actions of his office the past few months now call this assessment into question.

In an interview published with the Times of London a few days after his inexplicable actions, Khan stated, “if we don’t hold on to the law, we have nothing to cling onto.” The Prosecutor would be wise to reflect on his Office’s history and follow his own advice.

Anne Herzberg is the Legal Advisor of NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research organization.

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The Truth About Casualties: Comparing Gaza to the Iraq War

An Israeli police officer stands next to the remains of a rocket after rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian Islamist terrorist group Hamas, in Herzliya, Israel May 26 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Nir Elias

Last December, The Wall Street Journal contrasted the number of munitions dropped in the Gaza war with numbers from the US war in Iraq. In the roughly two months that had elapsed since the Oct. 7 massacre, Israel dropped 29,000 weapons in Gaza, the Journal explained, whereas the US military dropped just 3,678 munitions on Iraq from 2004 to 2010. The clear takeaway was that Israel was uniquely trigger-happy.

If history started in 2004, those statistics might faithfully tell the story. But the invasion of Iraq began — and ended — in 2003. That was the year Iraq’s cities fell to US forces, the year the regime was overthrown, and the year Saddam Hussein was captured.

If the Journal were interested in comparing what is comparable, readers would have learned that while Israel dropped 29,000 weapons in two months in 2023, the US in 2003 dropped that same number in half that time.

This example is one of many media manipulations, which have bent and stretched statistics from the Iraq war and others. And it has frequently been on the basis of such tampered evidence that the media has argued Israel’s fight against Hamas dramatically stands out compared to other wars throughout history.

To help make its case that the Gaza war “is different,” for example, The New York Times contrasted casualties over two months of fighting in Gaza to “the entire first year of the invasion of Iraq.”

In fact, the 2003 invasion lasted about one month, during which most of the Iraqi casualties mentioned by the newspaper were killed. (Never mind that in the Gaza war, the Times has also relied on undependable Hamas casualty breakdowns.)

If the Iraq comparison is important enough to cover, then it’s important enough to cover without downplaying the casualty rate in Iraq.

So let’s look at what The New York Times conceals. How different was Gaza than Iraq, really?

Over the 22 days from March 19, 2003, when invasion of Iraq began, and April 9, when the Saddam Hussein regime is understood to have collapsed, the US invasion led to the death of civilians at a higher rate than the best, albeit rough, estimates over that same time span in Gaza.

Our graph plots the number of Iraqi civilian deaths that have been verified by Iraq Body Count alongside estimates based on Hamas figures for total deaths in Gaza. (Hamas updates hide the number of combatants killed.)

We call our highest estimate of civilian casualties the “Hamas extrapolation,” since it takes Hamas’s overall numbers and assumes 80 percent of them are civilians, as a Hamas official cited by Reuters once charged.

Our lowest estimate, the “Israel extrapolation,” assumes 60 percent of Hamas’s stated casualties are civilians, in line with Israeli estimates (but ignoring a lower estimate used by Benjamin Netanyahu). The “Egypt extrapolation” in the middle assumes 70 percent of the deaths were civilians, in line with a projection by Egyptian intelligence officials who said the number falls between the belligerents’ estimates.

And what about the numbers after the first 22 days of fighting in Iraq and Gaza?

For the remainder of the year, the rate of deaths in Iraq fell to a trickle, as might be expected after the fall of the regime. In Gaza, fighting raged on, so the casualty totals quickly surpassed those in Iraq.

Still, the casualty rate in Gaza steadily declined, a fact that seems to have been lost in the media’s coverage of the fighting. The graph below, which also relies on Hamas’ casualty totals, shows how every month that has passed, the rate of casualties fell further below the rate during the invasion of Iraq.

This continuous decline in casualties as Hamas lost ground in Gaza is unsurprising, since Israel’s stated objective is to beat back Hamas and end its control over the territory.

Those who insist Israel’s intent is to destroy the Palestinian people — in other words, those throwing around the “genocide” slur — might have a harder time explaining the decline.

To note that the rates of munitions and casualties during the fight to unseat the Iraqi regime exceeded the rates in Gaza serves as a corrective to media misrepresentations. It doesn’t diminish the real suffering in Gaza, any more than a tallying of Hamas and Hezbollah rockets diminishes the hardship of thousands of Israeli families forced from their homes by those rockets, or the pain of Israelis whose children were murdered or kidnapped during Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre.

If war is hell, then urban war merits a worse description. In Gaza, we have an urban war in which Hamas terrorists dig themselves under the densely packed civilians they rule, a literal inversion of the humane arrangement.

If civilian casualties mean so little to Hamas, of course it refuses to surrender itself and its hostages. And in light of Hamas’s promises to repeat the Oct. 7 slaughter again and again, Israel’s obligation to its citizens is to do everything it reasonably can, politically and certainly militarily, to eliminate the threat.

To understand how the Gaza war is different, the press should start there — and stop manipulating the numbers.

Gilead Ini is a Senior Research Analyst at CAMERA, the foremost media watchdog organization focused on coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

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