Region of Concern: Lebanon
Written By Iris Hautaniemi Forsberg; Edited by Cameron Munoz
Date: May 21, 2023
Event: On May 21, Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist group, held a military exercise to showcase its weapon arsenal and train its soldiers. The group invited several foreign reporters to the demonstration and presented tanks, cannons, rocket launchers, and anti-drone weapons. The exercise took place a few days ahead of “Liberation Day” on May 25, celebrating the withdrawal of Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) from Lebanon in 2000. During the exercise, masked fighters blew up Israeli flags placed on a simulation of the border wall between Israel and Lebanon. Israel declined to comment on the activities, but the event can be seen as a valuable source of information as tensions escalate between Israel and Hezbollah. Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy group allied with Syria and Palestinian armed groups, such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), who regularly target Israel with missiles, drones, and terrorist attacks.
Significance: Hezbollah’s military exercise and invitation of the foreign press are very likely attempts to intimidate Israel and show their regional strength. This intentional demonstration of force is likely a result of the increased tensions with and within Israel after several attacks against Israel and retaliatory strikes against Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. Other Israeli adversaries will likely increase their cooperation with Hezbollah as they present their power and weaponry to the world. Boosted support for Hezbollah will likely lead to new attacks against Israel, increasing the risks of civilian casualties. Showcasing mainly Iranian-manufactured weapons to the world will also likely lead to increased weapons purchases by other repressive regimes, such as Russia and Myanmar. These weapons will likely be used in civil warfare and Russia’s war against Ukraine, prolonging violent conflicts. Tensions between Israel, Hezbollah, and other hostile groups in Lebanon will likely increase in the upcoming days ahead of Liberation Day, which could ignite new attacks on Israel on the 23rd anniversary.
Recommendations: Israel and its allies should immediately monitor Hezbollah's activities, gather information about their weapons arsenal, and increase intelligence gathering about potential future attacks. Iranian-manufactured weapons recovered by the Israeli military should be examined through a collaboration between the US, Israeli, and other allies to get information on how to counter these weapons in future attacks. US and EU member states should expand sanctions on Hezbollah, Iran, Syria, and the countries buying weapons from Iran, including Russia and Myanmar. These sanctions should also target individual companies within these countries financially supporting Iran with foreign currency through weapons purchases. Israel should continue to inform its citizens on how to act in case of missile attacks and regularly conduct defensive exercises in high-risk areas. This includes clear evacuation protocols and updated software systems to ensure that air raid alarms and the Red Alert app are properly functioning.
 Hezbollah conducts large military exercise in Lebanon, i24 News, May 2023, https://www.i24news.tv/en/news/middle-east/levant-turkey/1684667527-hezbollah-conducts-large-military-exercise-in-lebanon-with-media-presence
 Hezbollah stages wargames for media, asserts readiness to confront Israel, AP, May 2023, https://apnews.com/article/lebanon-hezbollah-israel-exercises-48e1e763e306470713a12eb1c3d25d20