Israeli leaders say the pounding of Hamas dealt a blow to Iran, which Israel accuses of backing the Palestinian group, and to Hezbollah, the Shiite militia in Lebanon that fought Israel to a stalemate in 2006.
Women at a Tehran stadium last week hold portraits of Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran. Hezbollah declined to get involved in the Gaza conflict, despite entreaties by Hamas. Atta Kenare / AFP/Getty Images
“The operation proved again the power of Israel and improved its deterrence against those who threaten it,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said.
Nonetheless, as Gaza quiets down, Israeli security officials acknowledge that the wider conflict could escalate, as it plays out in secret skirmishes in the Middle East and beyond.
For months, Israeli intelligence services have girded for a possible attack overseas intended to avenge the assassination last year of Imad Mughniyah, a Hezbollah warlord who was close to Iran. Israeli security officials say the threat has intensified as the Gaza bloodshed converges with the anniversary next month of Mughniyah’s death, for which Hezbollah blames Israel.