Could Israel and Hezbollah airstrikes escalate into a full-blown war?

Away from the court and away from Gaza, Israel is also facing rising tension on its northern border with Lebanon. John Ray and Natasha Tierney report from an Israeli military post

It's the war no one wants, but everyone fears is inevitable. For months Israel and Hezbollah fighters have been exchanging rocket, missile and shell fire.

We got a flavour of the intensifying conflict when we visited what many reckon now to be the most dangerous border in the world.

At Kibbutz Hanita, high in the mountains, there is a sporadic rattle of machine gun fire and outgoing Israeli artillery.

A tank is parked under cover close to one of the abandoned houses. It was evacuated in October, after the Hamas attack on Gaza.

The Lebanese border is no more than half a mile away.

"We cannot allow what happened in Gaza to happen here," one soldier tells us.

Israel demands that Hezbollah - the powerful force backed by Iran- move miles back from the border to respect a UN resolution that ended a previous conflict.

Its government says it will achieve its ends by means diplomatic - or if needs be - military.

The Israeli positions are carved in concrete across the hillsides, a few metres away a Lebanese flag flies in the morning breeze. It is deceptively peaceful.

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Sgt. Maj. Itai is a veteran of the 2006 war with Hezbollah, a bloody and brutal encounter which left more than 1,000 people dead, mostly Lebanese civilians, including 120 Israeli soldiers.

His brothers are fighting in Gaza. I ask him if he believes the Israelis are bluffing: "Well I invite people to spend 48 hours with us on the most boiling and dangerous border in the world and see who is attacking who."

Kiryat Shmona is the Israeli city closest to the border.

Today Hezbollah fired a salvo of rockets there, in response it said to an Israeli strike earlier in the day on a civil defense building in Lebanon that killed two civilians.

The city has been all but deserted for three months.

Twenty-thousand people have left their homes: in all 100,000 have been evacuated from the region, and a similar number have fled in fear of Israeli attacks in southern Lebanon.

According to Hezbollah figures, 190 people have so far been killed there, at least 30 of them civilians.

'After October 7th people got really scared': Rabbi Ariel Frisch is one of the few who stayed behind in Kiryat Shmona

Frisch added: "We saw the IDF couldn't help civilians. Now we demand from the government and from the world to take care of Hezbollah so this event will not happen again." America has implored its closest ally not to escalate this confrontation any further.

Today the US Special Envoy Amos Hochstein - visiting Beirut - said he was "hopeful" that peace could be restored: "We are living in a crisis moment," he said, "and I believe that both sides prefer a diplomatic solution. It's our job to get one."

But for the moment Israel does not seem to be backing down. Nor does Hezbollah - stung by the killing of Wassim Al Tawil, one of its top commanders - show any sign of retreat.

But the danger is that events might now have a momentum of their own.

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