On Dec. 4, the Iran-backed Palestinian terror group Hamas announced the establishment of a new terrorist group in Lebanon with the goal of “liberating Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.” In the past two months, Hamas terrorists in Lebanon have carried out rocket attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians in northern Israel.
Hamas has called on the Palestinians living in Lebanon to join the group, “Vanguards of the Al-Aqsa Flood,” the name it chose for its barbaric invasion of Israeli communities near the border with the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7, when it massacred 1,200 Israelis and abducted 240 others to the Gaza Strip.
Hamas, in short, is saying that it is planning a similar invasion of Israel, but this time from Lebanon.
The announcement has drawn sharp criticism from many Lebanese, who fear that the Palestinian terror group and its patrons in Tehran are seeking to drag Lebanon into a destructive war with Israel. The Lebanese see how Hamas has brought devastation down on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as a result of their attack on Israel. They fear the same consequence in Lebanon.
“This [Hamas] statement is unacceptable, neither in form nor in content,” said Samir Geagea, head of the Lebanese Forces Party. “It harms Lebanese sovereignty and is again trying to harm the relationship between the Lebanese and Palestinians.”
Geagea pointed out that the Hamas decision to establish the new terror group in Lebanon could not have been taken without the approval of Iran’s Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah. “It is well-established that Hamas and other organizations in Lebanon are subject to the command and decision of Hezbollah,” he said. “It is next to impossible for them to carry out any military action without the knowledge and approval of the party [Hezbollah]. There is no possibility for Hamas to issue such a statement had it not been for Hezbollah’s actual signature on it.”
Lebanese Parliament Member Ashraf Rifi, a former general director of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, denounced Hamas’s decision as a “serious mistake” and called for its reversal. “Lebanon is not an arena for resistance [against Israel] or those who are deceived,” Rifi warned. “We reject this announcement. My advice to you [Hamas]: ‘Do not sink into the shifting Lebanese sands, otherwise the loss with be great.'”
Former Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil, who also serves as president of the Free Patriotic Movement, wrote: “We categorically reject the announcement by the Hamas movement in Lebanon. We also consider that any armed action from Lebanese territory [against Israel] is an assault on our national sovereignty.”
Lebanese businessman and politician Fouad Makhzoumi also rejected Hamas’s announcement: “I call on the Hamas movement to stop making flimsy plans. I ask the [Lebanese] government about its role in this context and I demand that its president act immediately and take the necessary measures because this matter harms Lebanon’s sovereignty and security.”
Lebanese journalist Tony Bouloss warned that Hamas’s intention is to establish a new terror group in Lebanon that could plunge the country into a civil war and turn it into “Hamas Land.”
Bouloss called on the Lebanese authorities to expel the leaders of Hamas from Lebanon “and protect the Lebanese people from bringing Israeli destruction into our country.” He added: “Hezbollah wants to turn Lebanon into a new Afghanistan, attracting all terrorist organizations in the world so that Lebanon becomes an alternative homeland for rogue groups.”
This is not the first time that the Lebanese people have voiced concern over plans of Iran and its proxies to turn Lebanon into a launching pad for attacking Israel. Over decades, Hezbollah has accumulated approximately 150,000 rockets and missiles, many of them precision-guided, hidden among the homes of civilians along its 75 mile border with Israel.
A poll conducted in Lebanon between Oct. 13 and Oct. 17 showed that 73% of Lebanese oppose Lebanon’s entry into the current Israel-Hamas war.
Since Hamas’s invasion of Israel on Oct. 7, many Lebanese have been appealing to Hezbollah not to involve Lebanon in the fighting for fear that Israel would destroy their country. “People are exhausted—they can’t take much more,” Ramad Boukallil, a Lebanese businessman, told Politico. “Lebanon is reeling—we have had four harsh years with the economic crisis, people are skipping meals and can hardly get by. Please God we’re not hit with another war.”
It is worth noting that in recent years, several senior Hamas leaders, including Saleh al-Arouri, have moved to Lebanon. Al-Arouri and his friends are in charge of coordination between Hamas and Hezbollah. According to some reports, Hezbollah recently permitted the deployment of 400 Palestinians affiliated with Hamas along the border with Israel. The coordination between the two terror groups is taking place under the direct supervision of their masters in Iran, whose leaders want to destroy Israel and consider the United States the “Big Satan.”
Lebanese opposition to attempts by Hamas and Hezbollah to drag Lebanon into a catastrophic war with Israel serves as a reminder that there are Arabs in the Middle East who are wary of Iran’s intention to use them as cannon fodder in the Jihad (holy war) against Israel. This opposition is also a sign that a growing number of Arabs (including Palestinians) are fully against engaging in war with Israel.
The Lebanese and these Arabs are saying that they will not allow Hamas and the rest of the Palestinians to drag them into war with Israel. This refreshing approach is largely why the Arabs states have largely refrained from joining the Iran-led war on Israel. Once Hamas is removed from power and its military capabilities destroyed, we are likely to see more Arabs stand up against Iran and its proxies.
Ultimately, the war Israel is currently waging against Hamas will weaken the Iran-led axis of evil in the Middle East; embolden Arabs to speak out against Hamas, Hezbollah and other terror groups, and finally hugely improve the lives of all the Arabs and Palestinians in the region by working toward peace with Israel.
Originally published by The Gatestone Institute.