Middle East

Mid-East media wary of new Israel-Hezbollah war

A selection of Middle East newspaper front pages Image copyright BBC Monitoring
Image caption Many Middle Eastern newspapers featured the deadly clash on their front pages

The media in the Middle East have commented extensively on the Israeli-Hezbollah exchange of fire on the Lebanese border.

Pro-Hezbollah media portray it as revenge for what is assumed to be Israel's attack on Hezbollah and Iranian forces on the Golan Heights earlier this month, and promise further retaliation.

Many Arab papers fear that Hezbollah is dragging the already-troubled region into another major conflict, and Israeli commentators debate the wisdom of their government's actions.

'Looming war'

Headlines in the London Arab newspapers express concern.

Al-Arab al-Alamiyah complains that "Hezbollah is putting Lebanon in the circle of danger", and Saudi-owned Al-Sharq al-Awsat accuses the Shia militia of "opening a front in the Shebaa farms".

Arab nationalist Al-Quds al-Arabi, which is often sympathetic to Hezbollah, also highlights the "escalation of tension" in Lebanon.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption A Spanish UN peacekeeper positioned near the village of Ghajar was killed during the fighting

In the Middle East, Saudi Al-Watan warns that "dragging Lebanon into a new war" would benefit only Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel's March general election.

Umar Hilmi al-Ghul echoes this in the Palestinian Authority newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadida, saying Hezbollah's attack "will increase tension that Netanyahu will try to use to boost his flagging ratings".

Alyas Bajani in Kuwait's Al-Siyassah reflects Sunni Arab apprehension at the growing influence of Hezbollah, denouncing it as a "terrorist and sectarian party occupying Lebanon", and accusing it and its Iranian mentors of being "enemies of peace, freedom, human rights and Lebanon".

'Saving face'

Other commentators disagree, saying Hezbollah and Iran have now "saved face" and will not escalate the conflict.

Ali Hamadah in Lebanon's anti-Hezbollah Al-Nahar says Iran responded to the Israeli attack "in a very calculated, controlled manner... and, barring any surprises, the situation in southern Lebanon will not develop further".

Urayb al-Rintawi in Jordan's Al-Dustur agrees that Hezbollah is satisfied with putting its Lebanese rivals and Israel in an "embarrassing position", and will stick to a response of "above zero, but below a new war".

'Subdued Israel'

Pro-Hezbollah media are jubilant, with Lebanon's Al-Diyar hailing the "resistance heroes who raise Arab heads high".

The Syrian official papers Al-Thawrah and Al-Watan echo this, saying a "subdued" Israel was reduced to a "state of panic".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Hardline Iranian media declared Hezbollah's attack a 'stunning blitzkrieg'

In Gaza, the Hamas website Filastin Online says both Hamas and its Islamic Jihad ally "bless Hezbollah's operation", prompting Iranian radio to imagine a "joint resistance front against the Zionist regime".

Iran's state TV and hardline press dub the Hezbollah attacks a "stunning blitzkrieg", and claim that Israel is concealing a higher number of casualties from the public.

Pro-reform newspapers in Iran are more cautious, relegating the story to their foreign pages. Sharq captions its report "Fear of war".

'Choose calm'

The story dominates the front pages in Israel, with some commentators unsure of the government's overall strategy towards Hezbollah and Iran.

Nahum Barnea in Yediot Aharonot questions the wisdom of attacking Iran over the Golan Heights ceasefire line in the first place.

"Who did we deter, and who did we scare other than thousands of Israelis living in the north?" he asks, wondering whether it would be preferable to sit opposite Hezbollah "rather than mad organisations affiliated with al-Qaeda".

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israeli forces, like these in the Golan Heights, are 'prepared to act powerfully on all fronts'

Alex Fishman in the same paper fears that Israel is reversing its policy of staying out of post-Arab Spring conflicts, and complains that attacking Iran in broad daylight "simply forces the other side to respond, and destroys our own power to deter".

Zvi Barel in liberal Haaretz agrees that attacking Iran and Hezbollah while leaving their Syrian rebel enemies alone was bound to make the Shia allies regard this as "intervention in their 'internal affairs' by granting the rebels Israeli backing".

Yoav Limor in pro-government Yisrael Hayom says neither side wants escalation, but thinks it "doubtful that Hezbollah has been deterred from acting again".

His stablemate Dan Margalit says Hezbollah's response has been "measured", and advises the government to resist electoral pressure to escalate the conflict:

"If the choice is between deterrence and prestige and restoring the situation to what it used to be, it is right to choose calm on the northern border".

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

More on this story