A quick summary from JWR (an an excellent analysis of the larger conflict ahead):
The next Middle East war — Israel against genocidal Islamism — has begun. The first stage of the war started two weeks ago, with the Israeli incursion into Gaza in response to the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier and the ongoing shelling of Israeli towns and kibbutzim; now, with Hezbollah's latest attack, the war has spread to southern Lebanon. Ultimately, though, Israel's antagonists won't be Hamas and Hezbollah but their patrons, Iran and Syria. The war will go on for months, perhaps several years. There may be lulls in the fighting, perhaps even temporary agreements and prisoner exchanges. But those periods of calm will be mere respites.Other good analyses can be found here and here. The latter page points out the real reason Iran is jumping into the fray:
For the last few weeks, Iran has been constantly delaying its response to the ultimatum presented to it by 5+1 (the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany) regarding its nuclear program, since it has no intention of accepting the international community's terms and of suspending its uranium enrichment activities. Iran was required to respond to the ultimatum by July 12 (before the G8 summit in Saint Petersburg). As of July 13, 2006, since Iran failed to respond, the international community has decided to refer the Iranian case back to the U.N. Security Council. So far, the international community has not yielded to Iran's attempts to evade the ultimatum, and has denied Iran's request to postpone the deadline to August 22, 2006. . .Iran's involvement would seem to explain why Saudi Arabia has issued a rather tepid response in which it surprisingly seems to blame the "uncalculated adventures" of Israel's enemies.
It is possible that the escalation on Israel's borders, set off by elements supported by Iran - Hamas, Hizbullah and Syria - is meant to take the pressure off Iran by triggering a major military clash in the Middle East, which will divert international attention from Iran's nuclear program.
Most of the analyses of the situation are regarding this escalation of conflict as more than just business as usual in the Middle-east; which is to say, this is not just another brief spat which will wear itself down to another cease-fire in a few days. We'll have to wait and see.
But even if this does break out into a larger war in the Middle-east, we should be neither surprised nor dismayed. Our Father told us right up front that Israel would be the center of the world's conflicts:
Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it. (Zec. 12:2-3)One thing I would caution my prophetically-minded brethren is against calling this conflict a fulfillment of prophecy or a sign that we are in the End Times. Certainly we are, and we are nearer to the Lord's return than we were in 1948, 1967, and 1973, but none of those conflicts brought us into Daniel's Seventieth Week, so it's premature to say that this one will.
Instead, we need to watch eagerly for Yeshua's Second Coming, but occupy until He comes. Speculation is fine and fun, but we've got too much to do in too short a time to let it distract us.
Shalom, and pray for the shalom of Jerusalem.