This week’s shock attack by Palestinian militant group Hamas against Israel left the Middle East on a knife’s edge. The world remains focused on Israel’s unfolding military response in Gaza, which in the days ahead will surely prove long, punishing, and unpredictable. But meanwhile, fears of a broader regional war are growing, especially after Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, speaking from Lebanon, explicitly threatened expanding hostilities to new fronts. Such a development risks drawing in the US.

If Lebanese group Hezbollah enters the war against Israel, the hostilities in Gaza will become a sideshow. Hezbollah is the world’s most formidable non-state military. Hamas is but a much weaker underling. In 2006, Hezbollah fought Israel to a standstill following a devastating month-long war. It has since grown into a much more capable and experienced fighting force, boasting up to a hundred thousand fighters and estimated to have a similar number of missiles that can overwhelm Israeli defenses, rain down on its cities, and paralyse its economy.

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