August 31, 2023 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 517

Signs Of Possible War In September-October

August 31, 2023 | By Yigal Carmon*
Lebanon, Palestinians | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 517

Lately there have been growing indications that a war against Israel may break out in September or October 2023. The trigger may be spiraling violent clashes resulting in many casualties, or the use of new weapons leading to many fatalities on the Israeli side, in the face of which Israel will be unable to suffice with its regular counterterrorism measures.[1] While neither Hamas nor Hizbullah are eager to start a comprehensive confrontation with Israel,[2] such a confrontation could result from an uncontrolled deterioration on the ground[3] or from the use of new and unusually deadly weapons by these movements.   

The following are some of the factors pointing to the possibility of a war breaking out in the coming months:

1. Growing Provocations By Hizbullah On Israel's Northern Border

In the recent months, Hizbullah has repeatedly instigated increasingly bold provocations on the border.  These included setting up tents in the Har Dov area, inside Israeli territory;[4]   dismantling surveillance cameras along the border fence near Fatima Gate,[5] and firing an anti-tank missile into Israel.[6] In addition, Hizbullah, which does not recognize the Blue Line as the international border between Lebanon and Israel, has recently made a new territorial claim, demanding that Israel give Lebanon sovereignty over the northern Rosh Hanikra railway tunnel, likewise in Israeli territory.[7]  At the same time, it also demands to curtail UNIFIL's freedom of action in South Lebanon. [8]

2. Adoption Of Gaza Fighting Methods By Islamist Terrorist Organizations In The West Bank, Such As The Firing Of Rockets And Excavation Of Command-And-Control Tunnels

The Palestinian terror organizations, especially Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), seek to change the mode of operation against Israel in the West Bank by duplicating the fighting methods used by the terrorists in Gaza.[9] This is manifest in the firing of rockets from the West Bank into Israel, the excavation of "command-and-control tunnels" in the West Bank (though not, as yet, tunnels infiltrating Israeli localities), and in military cooperation between different terror organizations, following the example of the Joint War Room in Gaza. There has also been an increase in efforts by Iran and Hizbullah to smuggle weapons into the West Bank, similar to the smuggling of weapons into Gaza.[10]  PIJ secretary-general Ziad Al-Nakhaleh said that, during his June 2023 meeting with Iranian Leader Ali Khamenei, the latter had "reiterated [the need to] develop the arming of the West Bank and the resistance there." Nakhaleh added: "We, as Palestinians and as resistance forces and movements, understand the importance of arming the West Bank, but this requires efforts by the Palestinians themselves, and also the assistance of our brothers in the Islamic Republic of Iran."[11] 

3. Possibility Of Clashes In Al-Aqsa During The Jewish Holidays In September, Potentially Sparking Violence Outside Jerusalem As Well

During the Jewish holidays in September and October, Jews are likely to visit the Al-Aqsa compound, as happens every year. Hamas and Hizbullah spokesmen have stressed that this could lead to a regional war. Saleh Al-'Arouri,  deputy chairman of Hamas' Political Bureau and head of the movement's military wing in the West Bank, said in an interview with the Al-Mayadeen channel: "There are some in the [Israeli] cabinet who are contemplating measures like taking over and dividing the Al-Aqsa mosque, and carrying out assassinations." These people, he added, "know that this may lead to regional war." He recalled statements made by Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah, that "any attack on the Al-Aqsa mosque or on Jerusalem will prompt a regional war." [12]

4. Increased Threats Of Comprehensive Regional War

The leaders of the terror organizations have recently increased their threats of a comprehensive regional war,[13] in response to Israeli threats to assassinate terror operatives and those who dispatch them, including Hamas leader Saleh 'Arouri. In an interview with the Al-Mayadeen channel, the latter threatened to escalate the confrontation with Israel to the point of comprehensive war: "We are preparing for a comprehensive war and are discussing this in closed chambers with all the elements and components [of the resistance axis] that are connected to this war." He added that the resistance axis has "the presence, the motivation and the desire for a regional war to occur, and has an interest in this."[14]

In this context, the heads of the resistance axis held a series of meetings in Lebanon.[15] Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian met in Beirut with PIJ Secretary-General Al-Nakhaleh, Hamas official Al-'Arouri and other PIJ and Hamas senior officials. In the meeting Abdollahian stressed the statements of Supreme Leader Khamenei about the need "to help the West Bank" and about Iran's "ongoing [commitment to] assisting the resistance with all its might."[16]  He added that "the establishment of the joint Hamas-PIJ [war] room reflected a smart move on the part of the resistance."[17] 

Abdollahian also met with Hizbullah Secretary-General Nasrallah,[18] who then met with Al-'Arouri and Al-Nakhaleh to "make a joint assessment of the situation in the West Bank, the escalation of the resistance activity and the latest Israeli threats." The participants of this meeting underscored "the steadfastness and steadiness of all the forces of the resistance axis in the struggle against the Zionist enemy," and the importance of coordination between the "resistance movements" in Palestine and Lebanon.[19]

Nasrallah (center) with Al-'Arouri (right) and Al-Nakhaleh (Image:,,, September 2, 2023)

5. Possibility Of Unprecedented Rise In Number Of Israeli Fatalities Following Use Of Deadly New Weapons, Compelling Israel To Respond Even At Cost Of Comprehensive War

There have recently been increasing reports about the potential use of new weapons by Hizbullah, Hamas and the PIJ that can cause a large number of Israeli fatalities, such as extra-powerful explosive charges and rockets fired on Israeli localities, as mentioned above. In this situation, Israel will likely be compelled to undertake a large-scale response, above and beyond its routine counterterrorism measures, even  at the cost of an all-out war.[20]

It was reported lately that Israel had thwarted an attempt to smuggle into the West Bank, via Jordan, powerful explosive devices manufactured in Iran that spread large amounts of deadly shrapnel. The use of such explosive devices seriously threatens Israeli troops operating in the West Bank and can result in numerous casualties. Journalist 'Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan, editor of the online Arabic daily Al-Rai Al-Yawm, wrote in an article that "the coming days and weeks will see the resistance [fighters] in the West Bank receiving advanced weapons, provided by a number of countries and organizations, including Kornet anti-tank missiles."[21]  


* Yigal Carmon is the President and founder of MEMRI.


[1] On the face of it, a large number of Israeli fatalities will be nothing new, but we assess that, in the present circumstances, Israel will undertake an unprecedented, comprehensive response, even at the cost of a comprehensive war with Iran, which is activating the Islamist resistance organizations on the ground.

[2] Recall that both movements are involved to some extent in regional natural gas initiatives that will be undermined by a major confrontation. 

[3]  Such a loss of control, on the part of Hizbullah, occurred in 2006 and led to the outbreak of the 2006 Lebanon war. Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah admitted as much in an interview on Al-Jadid TV, in which he said that, had he known that the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers on July 12, 2006 would lead to a war of such a magnitude, he would never have done it. Nasrallah added that another incident that happened later –  an Israeli tank entered the Lebanese territory and was destroyed by an explosive charge weighing hundreds of kilograms – complicated the situation even further and led to the death of more Israeli soldiers that Hizbullah had not meant to kill (Al-Jadid TV, Lebanon, August 27, 2006).  For some of Nasrallah's statements in this interview, see MEMRI TV Clip No. 10459, Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah Immediately Following 2006 Second Lebanon War: We Never Would Have Captured the Two Israeli Soldiers Had We Known It Would Lead to War (Archival), August 27, 2006.   

[4] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), June 1, 2023.

[5], July 14, 2023.

[6] According to the Lebanese online daily Al-Mudun, the rocket was fired by "Lebanon" (i.e., Hizbullah) in protest against Israel's "annexing" of the village of Ghajar, which straddles the Israel-Lebanon border. The daily stressed that the  firing of the rocket had been deliberately timed to coincide with Hizbullah's issuance of a statement on this matter. (,, July 6, 2023).

[7] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), July 16, 2023.

[8] See, for example, remarks by Ahmad Qabalan, a Shi'ite cleric close to Hizbullah, who said recently that "there is no room for international forces of any kind that come at the expense of Lebanon's sovereignty… We will not agree to any alternative to the national formula for defense of the homeland… The time of violating Lebanese territory has passed, and what happens in the [UN] Security Council does not interest us" (, August 28, 2023).  

[9] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1707 – Palestinian Terror Organizations Are Duplicating Gaza Strip Fighting Methods In West Bank, August 8, 2023

[10] It should be noted that the armament efforts in the West Bank are energetically assisted by the Islamic Republic of Iran, and on orders of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Khamenei issued these orders a decade ago, and successive commanders of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps have declared numerous times that they are implementing these orders. Hamas and PIJ leaders regularly thank Iran publicly for its military aid to their organizations, including inside the West Bank. On this see MEMRI reports:  Inquiry and Analysis No. 1107, Qods Day In Iran: Tehran Calls For Annihilation Of Israel And For Arming The West Bank, July 25, 2014; Special Dispatch No. 10721 - Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Secretary-General Ziad Al-Nakhaleh In Interviews With Iranian Media: We Manufacture Weapons Thanks To Aid Provided By Iran And Seek To Arm All West Bank Cities; No Jew Anywhere In The World Lives In Greater Danger Than The Jews In Palestine – July 24, 2023; Special Dispatch No. 10124 - In Tehran Visit On The Eve Of The Gaza-Israel Conflict, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Leader Nakhaleh, Iranian Regime Heads Praise Iran's Support For PIJ; IRGC Qods Force Commander Qa'ani: 'The Palestinian Fighters Are At The Stage Of Planning To Strike The Final Blows Against The Rotting Body Of The Zionist Regime, When The Time Is Right' – August 8, 2022; Special Dispatch No. 9946 - On International Qods Day, Instituted By The Iranian Regime, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hizbullah And Other Iran Allies Call For Jihad Against Israel, Threaten Regional War – May 4, 2022; Special Dispatch No. 9717 - On Second Anniversary Of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani's Killing, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad Continue To Praise Him; Controversy In Gaza Over Billboards Commemorating Him – January 10, 2022; Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1588 - Destruction Of Israel By The Sword Or By Referendum – Part II: Senior Iranian Regime Officials Link Iran To The May 2021 Gaza Conflict, Urge Hamas And Palestinian Islamic Jihad To Continue Their Fight Against Israel – July 22, 2021; Special Dispatch No. 9123 - Marking Anniversary Of Killing Of IRGC Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, Hamas Continues To Signal Loyalty To Iran, Resistance Axis – January 5, 2021.

[12], August 25, 2023.

[13] These threats of regional war join the rhetoric that the Palestinian resistance factions have long been voicing about establishing a balance of terror and deterrence vis-à-vis Israel, and about uniting the resistance fronts in any future confrontation with Israel. See e.g. MEMRI TV Clip of statement by PIJ Secretary-General Al-Nakhaleh in April 2023; see also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 10562 - Lebanese Media Reports: On The Evening Before The April 6, 2023 Rocket Attack On Israel, Iranian Qods Force Commander Esmail Qaani Visited Lebanon, Met With Officials From Hizbullah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad – April 13, 2023. It should be noted that these statements by the leaders of Palestinian organizations about a possible comprehensive war make no reference to Israel's expected response.   

[14] An exchange of threats has also been ongoing between Israel and Hizbullah. In response to a statement by Israeli Defense Minister Galant that, "if Hizbullah starts a war we will send Lebanon back to the Stone Age" (, August 8, 2023), Nasrallah said: "You too will go back to the Stone Age if you start a war against Lebanon" (, August 14, 2023).   In a May 25, 2023 speech, Nasrallah said in response to threats by Israeli PM Netanyahu, "You are not the ones threatening a large-scale war. It is we who threaten you with such a war. Any  large-scale war will include all the borders, and hundreds of thousands of fighters will participate in it" (It should be noted that the resistance organizations do not have such a number of fighters) (, May 25, 2023). 

[15] It should be mentioned that resistance axis officials also met just before an April 6, 2023 incident in which dozens of rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel. In that meeting – between the commander of the Iranian IRGC's Qods Force, Esmail Qaani, and the heads of Hizbullah, Hamas, the PIJ and other Iran-backed militias – the participants reportedly decided on the rocket attack. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 10562 - Lebanese Media Reports: On The Evening Before The April 6, 2023 Rocket Attack On Israel, Iranian Qods Force Commander Esmail Qaani Visited Lebanon, Met With Officials From Hizbullah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad – April 13, 2023.

[16], August 31, 2023.

[17] IRNA (Iran), September 1, 2023.

[18], September 2, 2023.

[19] A report on Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV emphasized that the "iconic" picture of these leaders together conveyed a clear message to Israel, namely that the components of the resistance are united in their struggle against the Israeli enemy, especially in light of the threats of assassination (, September 2, 2023).

[20] In this context it should be mentioned that the Islamist resistance organizations always have the option of renewing the suicide bombings in crowded places like buses and restaurants. Such attacks are nothing new, but will nevertheless force Israel to respond with measures that are not part of its regular counterterrorism policy. 

[21], August 25, 2023.

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