The following day, two Israeli soldiers and a Hezbollah fighter were killed in an exchange of fire across Lebanon’s southern border, after which Israeli jets flew at low altitude along the Lebanese coast, breaking the sound barrier and drawing anti-aircraft fire. It was only the latest in a series of cross-border clashes, in which Israel has become bolder in its use of heavy weaponry and choice of target – Israeli jets in early June bombed suspected positions of the Palestinian guerrilla group PFLP-GC, just south of Beirut, while on 20 June warplanes fired four air-to-ground missiles at a Hezbollah outpost in the south.

Relations between the Islamist group and Lebanese authorities generally remain cordial. Interior Minister Elias Hrawi joined Nasrallah in voicing fears that the recent bombing was intended to drive a wedge between the two: ‘Israel’s low-ranking collaborators have been benefiting recently from a political harmony and cover-up provided to them by high-ranking collaborators.’

Hezbollah is growing in boldness, however, as was demonstrated in recent municipal elections. In the past, the party was persuaded to stand in local elections with the Amal movement, which also maintains close ties to Damascus. Resisting pressure from Syria, however, in the 10 May election in Baalbek the two parties forged strong oppositional alliances, with Hezbollah trumping its rivals. The Islamist group has proved a useful buffer against the Jewish state, but both the Lebanese and Syrian governments may be wondering if it has also become something of a liability.