At least three Hezbollah members, a senior Israeli officer and two Palestinian fighters have been killed so far in cross-border fighting.
Beirut, Lebanon – In Lebanon, people are not strangers to conflicts.
“If there is going to be a war, then there will be a war. Do you know how many wars we’ve been through since I was alive? We are used to it,” Ahmed Ali, 55, told Al Jazeera at a transport hub in Beirut, the Lebanese capital.
During its lifetime, Lebanon has endured a devastating civil war, conflict with Israel, internal battles between armed factions and the fallout from the war in neighboring Syria.
But since the Palestinian group Hamas launched an unprecedented operation against Israel on Saturday, residents of Lebanon have watched with apprehension.
The small country in the Levant, which has only 6 million inhabitants – already shaken by a historic economic crisis – is on the verge of conflict following an upsurge in cross-border violence with Israel.
On Monday, Israeli bombings killed three members of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, according to a statement from the Iran-backed organization. An Israeli deputy commander and two Palestinian fighters in southern Lebanon were also killed.
The next day, Hezbollah fired a guided missile at an Israeli military vehicle. Israel responded by striking an observation post of Hezbollah, which belongs to the predominantly Shiite armed group.
The escalation of violence has forced hundreds of Lebanese to stay at home or flee to the southern suburbs of Beirut.
“Most of my family’s neighbors have all fled their homes (out of caution),” Zein Abdeen, 21, told Al Jazeera. “Those with small children left immediately, but young men living alone stayed behind. They are not afraid.
Another dead end?
In the summer of 2006, Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in an attempt to secure a prisoner exchange deal with Israel. However, Israel responded by bombing the home of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, sparking a 34-day war.
The conflict ended in a stalemate and the human cost was high: around 1,100 Lebanese and 165 Israelis were killed.
The war gave Hezbollah a huge reputation in the Arab world by celebrating its ability to withstand a full-throttle Israeli attack.
But facing an acute financial crisis for years now – around 80 percent of Lebanon’s population lives below the poverty line – many fear the country will not be able to recover from another war total with Israel.
“Palestinians should be free. They should not be tortured,” said a Lebanese Christian who identified himself as Abu George. “But we should support them diplomatically and not militarily. »
After the devastation of Lebanon’s infrastructure in the 2006 war, several Gulf states donated large sums of money to repair the country. Saudi Arabia has pledged $500 million in aid and deposited $1 billion with Lebanon’s central bank.
But while these same Gulf countries have withdrawn much of their support from Lebanon in recent years, angered by Hezbollah’s ties to Iran, many Lebanese fear they will no longer get that level of support.
“I fear the possibility that we might be at war. In the past, there were people to help Lebanon. But now who will help us? » asked Abu George.
Not everyone shares the fear of the consequences of war. Frustration with Lebanon’s economic situation leads some Lebanese to think things can’t get worse.
In 2021, the World Bank classified Lebanon’s economic implosion as one of the worst crises since the 19th century. In June last year, the International Monetary Fund said “vested interests” were behind Lebanese politicians’ resistance to crucial economic reforms.
Since 2019, the Lebanese currency has lost around 98 percent of its value while its gross domestic product (GDP) has contracted by 40 percent.
“Who cares about a war?” said Mohamad Aziz while waiting at a transport center in Beirut. “We don’t have the means to live, eat or drink (water). »