They fear the escalation has become a zero-sum game that will get worse unless pressure is put on both sides, but so far there is no sign that intervention will come.
Amal Saad-Ghoreyeb, author of Hizbu’llah: Politics and Religion told Aljazeera.net that “The international community is doing very little to end the conflict. If you look at the G8 and the UN Security Council none of the members have the inclination to call for a ceasefire.
“I don’t think any of these parties have much clout to put pressure on Israel to end the onslaught apart from the US, and there is an absence of resolve on the behalf of the US to pursue any ceasefire,” she said.
Many in Lebanon were puzzled by Monday’s proposal by the UN secretary-general and the British prime minister to send an international force to the country as there has been a UN force on the border with Israel since 1978.
Timur Goksel, who was UN spokesman in southern Lebanon for 20 years and is now at the American University in Beirut, said: “To propose an international force is an inane thing to do there is already an international force here … I would like to know which country is going to come here?”
But in a conflict that is still less than a week old, the speed with which both sides have taken their gloves off has surprised many.
The speed of the escalation has
So far, Hezbollah has proved it has a relatively sophisticated military capability, and for the first time since Iraq’s Scud attacks in 1991, Israel’s biggest cities have been under threat of bombardment.
Israel has shown it will ruthlessly attack Lebanon unless its demands that two captured Israeli soldiers are returned and Hezbollah is reigned in.
“The Israelis are not going to stop. No one is going to tell them to stop. They are already paying a price on the home front. The people are already in combat mode,” said Goksel.
The Israeli attack is the most severe since its invasion of Lebanon in 1982 which killed about 20,000 people.
This time, nearly 300 Lebanese have been killed and areas in the south of the country and the southern suburbs of Beirut have been under intense attack.
Nearly 30 Israelis have been killed.
Many in Lebanon consider Israel’s attack to be unjustly punishing a country that has little control over Hezbollah, a political party with a military wing that is stronger than the Lebanese army.
Boutrous Harb, a Lebanese member of parliament, told Aljazeera.net that “Lebanon cannot afford the escalation of this destruction. The Lebanese government is not in the position to control the behaviour of Hezbollah.”
There is anger at Hezbollah among many Lebanese who believe that its operation to capture soldiers on Wednesday invited Israel’s military response, and some believe that Hezbollah is not acting in the interests of Lebanon.
Said Goksel: “If this carries on like this Hezbollah will turn up as the villain in this. This is not going to be healthy for this country. Forget national dialogue. Hezbollah has made it clear that it is not interested in internal politics.”
But besides being a militia, Hezbollah is a political party popular with Lebanon’s Shia community, and while much of Hezbollah’s infrastructure can be destroyed, support for Hezbollah is likely to remain among the Lebanese Shia – the country’s largest group.
Lebanon is now waiting for a land invasion, and although there are reports of Israel sending its special forces into the country, it may be unwilling to consider a prolonged occupation.
Saad-Ghoreyeb said: “That’s Hezbollah’s forte, fighting the Israelis on land. I think that would be a serious miscalculation on the behalf of the Israelis.”