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Israel is engaged in conflicts on 3 separate fronts: Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Israel is now engaged in conflicts on three separate fronts.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

They're waging war against Hamas in Gaza, they're trading rocket fire with Hezbollah in Lebanon and they've been attacked directly by Iran. Now, they're facing pressure from the U.S. and other countries to avoid escalating these conflicts. How does Israel intend to handle all three of these foes at once?

MARTÍNEZ: Here to find out, we're joined now by NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre. Greg, fair to say all three of those conflicts are linked?

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Yes, A, absolutely, and it's really taken us into uncharted territory. The Hamas attack on October 7 ignited the war in Gaza. The Gaza war then prompted Hezbollah to start firing rockets into northern Israel in a show of solidarity with the Palestinians, and Iran's ongoing support for a number of proxy groups, Hezbollah in particular, led Israel to strike Iran's diplomatic compound in Syria, which, in turn, led to Iran's big strike over the weekend against Israel. Now, Norm Roule is a former U.S. intelligence official who spent decades focused on Iran and the Middle East. He blames this regional escalation on Iran.

NORMAN ROULE: I think more broadly, what we're looking at is a collapse of deterrence against Iran. You have basically a sense of there are no red lines that Iran is unwilling to cross, and the international community's response to this has generally been symbolic or ineffective sanctions.

MARTÍNEZ: OK, Greg, so let's break down each of these conflicts. Is Israel likely to strike back against Iran?

MYRE: Well, Israel's war cabinet has been holding multiple meetings, debating a possible response. Could be anything from a direct attack on Iran in the coming days, perhaps even a covert operation that would be carried out months from now, but the signals are something is in the works, something is coming. We know U.S. and European countries are telling Israel, the successful defense against this Iranian airstrike was a win. Take the win and deescalate. Here's how Alex Vatanka, an Iran expert at the Middle East Institute, puts it.

ALEX VATANKA: They are saying to Israel politely, probably, somewhat also firmly, that, look, nobody wants a regional war. It's not just the Iranians that don't want a regional war. We, the United States, the Europeans, don't want a regional war, so go about, seek your retaliation, but do it in a manner that doesn't result in further escalation.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. Now the Israel-Hezbollah confrontation on Israel's northern border. Bring us up to date there.

MYRE: More than a dozen Israeli soldiers were wounded in a Hezbollah strike on Wednesday. That's one of the most serious attacks recently. Now, this is part of a pattern that we're seeing, where cross-border exchanges of fire heat up for a few days and then calm down a bit. Now, so far, neither Israel nor Hezbollah appears interested in a full-scale battle. Civilians on both sides of this border have emptied out of the region. Israel has these other conflicts to contend with. Lebanon is very shaky, both politically and economically. A war would be disastrous. Now, these factors have helped restrain the conflict so far, but Hezbollah has a huge arsenal of rockets, supplied by Iran, so the potential for escalation remains.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, and lastly, Gaza. Where do things stand?

MYRE: The Gaza war is ongoing and evolving. We're mostly seeing Israeli airstrikes right now. Israel has pulled out most of its ground troops, so most ground combat has stopped. For the moment, it doesn't look like Israel is in position to mount a major offensive in southern Gaza, in Rafah, because it doesn't have enough troops and more than a million displaced Palestinians are still there, but we should stress that Israel is still deeply enmeshed in Gaza, with no resolution in sight. For Israel, all three of these conflicts, with Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, date back decades, and what makes this moment particularly challenging is that all three are now burning at the same time.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Greg Myre. Greg, thanks.

MYRE: Sure thing, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.
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