The past two weeks of August have seen Israel and Hezbollah exchanging rocket fire across Israel’s northern Lebanese border. The clashes between the two enemies have raised the specter of a renewed war. Syria is mired in a messy internal fracas between President Bashar Assad and rebels who desire his demise. On the fringe are the lunatics associated with ISIL who are busily destroying their enemies—Muslim, Christian, Kurd, or anyone who disagrees with its radical tenets.
While Israel and Hezbollah have been making forays into the other’s territory, the latest altercation took place when the Israeli air force attacked vehicles on a road inside Syria near the Golan Heights. Six people were killed including the son of a former Hezbollah security officer, the late Imad Mughniyah, who died as the result of a car bomb.
Hezbollah retaliated by leveling an assault against an Israeli caravan near the Shebaa Farms. Two Israeli soldiers were killed and several other members of the IDF convoy were injured. Hezbollah leaders immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. http://nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/the-israel-hezbollah-sideshow-1215
According to an IDF official: “We followed the cell and it was attacked at a distance of 10 to 15 kilometers from the border in an area in the total control of the Syrian army.” He further indicated that the target was an “Islamic Jihad cell controlled by Iran.” http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4693422,00.html
Hezbollah is a well-armed and funded proxy of Iran. Military adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, General Yahya Rahim Safavi, quickly issued warnings to Israel last week. He warned that Hezbollah and its allies in the region have some 80,000 rockets aimed at Tel Aviv and Haifa and are ready to retaliate should Israel exhibit further aggression. Safavi claimed:
“Iran, with the help of Hezbollah and its friends, is capable of destroying Tel Aviv and Haifa in case of military aggression on the part of the Zionists. I don’t think the Zionists would be so unintelligent as to create a military problem with Iran. They know the strength of Iran and Hezbollah.”
Hezbollah fighters, in readiness for further Israeli attacks have bravely moved their weapons and military materiel into the villages of Southern Lebanon. The fear is that the pending approval of the Iran nuclear pact will embolden Israel into making additional attacks against Iran’s proxies. It would enable them to use the civilians as human deterrents. The “brave” terrorists hide behind women and children in order gain the worldwide media advantage. Israel’s repeated complaints to the UN regarding Hezbollahs’ flagrant violation of Resolution 1701 which bans the terrorist group from an arms build-up following the 2006 Lebanon war, have fallen on deaf ears.
Despite Hezbollah’s flagrant use of innocents to provide a deterrent to Israel, one villager along the Syrian border expressed his delight with Hezbollah to a group of foreign journalists touring the region:
“I would be happy if the Lebanese army could protect us, but Israel and the United States are preventing the transfer of advanced arms to the Lebanese army for fear that it would attack Israel later on, so it’s failing to become a significant military power. Therefore, there is no one who can protect us…apart from Hezbollah.” http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4683471,00.html
Hezbollah leaders would be wise to exercise caution, however, as its militia is ensnared in battles with the Sunni rebels who oppose Assad as well as the brutal members of the Islamic State. Waving a red flag at Israel by escalating rocket attacks could bring dire consequences.
Al-Rai, a newspaper in Kuwait, published an article last week expressing the Heabollah fear that Israel will attempt “to drag Lebanon and Syria into an escalation of a state less than war but more than an operation.” http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4693422,00.html
The same UN officials who show great restraint in reining in Hezbollah have no hesitation when it comes to calling for Israel to back down. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated his “deep concern concerning flagrant violations of the disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria.” http://www.un.org/press/en/2015/sgsm17023.doc.htm
One must not forget that Iran’s saber-rattling against Israel is out of fear of a strike similar to the one that leveled Iraq’s Osirik reactor. Rather than go head-to-head with the Israelis, Iran has chosen to use the likes of Hezbollah and Hamas to keep the nation in a constant state of tension. According to Colonel Ronel Cohen, former director of the Terrorism Desk at the IDF, “Since the Taif Agreement (1989), which left Hezbollah as the only armed militia in Lebanon, we realized it is the main strategic threat as far as we are concerned. The operation of command and control systems, the Iranian-sponsored training, the weapons, and especially the rocket arsenal and warfare perception have been duplicated in Gaza time and again.” http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4683471,00.html
Israeli leaders believe that Hezbollah, like Hamas, has a constructed a warren of tunnels from Lebanon into Israel. The only question is: How will they be utilized? After six various wars with Israel—1993, 1996, 2006, 2008, and 2014—and with no clear winner, will Hezbollah attempt another assault against the well-trained and armed Israeli Defense Forces?
The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, understands that Israel will not allow her people to be targeted, but will take the war to his doorstep as quickly and succinctly as possible. Hezbollah’s only hope could be an underground invasion into the Galilee using tunnels in an attempt to gain the advantage with rockets, missiles and IEDs—favored Iranian weapons. It could, according to Cohen, be a tactic to plant a Hezbollah flag in an Israeli town, if only for a short time. That would be considered a tactical victory and would give Nasrallah bragging rights.
Should Israel decide not to get involved in another skirmish with Hezbollah and instead launch a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, the government of Ayatollah Khamenei may well deem Hezbollah and Hamas its greatest channels for retaliation. Israel’s leaders could also consider a move against Hezbollah in Lebanon at the same time an assault was launched against Iran. Regardless of the outcome, anti-Semitism and anti-American feeling would certainly burgeon, not only in the Middle East, but worldwide, invoking more rabid hyperbole against Israel and the United States.