Clues to the end game
On Jan. 28, Israeli soldiers in the northern Mount Dov region are pictured after an Israel Defence Forces patrol came under anti-tank fire from Hezbollah terrorist operatives. The Hezbollah attack killed two Israeli soldiers and injured seven others. (photo by Basal Awidat/Flash90)
Who was behind the Jan. 28 attack on northern Israel that killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded seven others? The easy answer is the Lebanon-based terrorist group Hezbollah, which claimed responsibility for the attack. But the wider view suggests Hezbollah’s state sponsor: Iran.
Dr. Ely Karmon, a senior research scholar at Israel’s International Institute for Counterterrorism, said that Hezbollah’s actions represent “an attempt to change the strategic rules of the game.” According to Karmon, Iran and Hezbollah have been working for months to take advantage of instability in Syria in order to create a forward military position against
Israel in Syria’s Quneitra region, close to the triple Syria-Lebanon-Israel border.
“This is actually an Iranian project,” Karmon told this reporter. “They have around 1,500 people on the ground in Syria, most of whom are counseling or training Syrian militias, and they have Hezbollah providing military support.”
On Jan. 28, Hezbollah fired five Kornet guided anti-tank missiles at an Israeli military convoy approximately 2.5 miles inside Israel’s border with Lebanon. A day earlier, less sophisticated mortars were fired from southern Syria into Israeli territory, with no damage reported.
In response to the Jan. 28 attack, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, “Whoever is behind today’s attack will pay the full price.” Netanyahu – like Karmon – stressed that the attack points back to Iran, adding, “with the assistance of Hezbollah, Iran has been for some time trying to open another front against Israel on the Golan Heights. We are acting with force and determination against these attempts.”
“Because of the weakness of the Syrian regime, the Iranians are now permitted to have a foothold directly on Israel’s border, which until now they didn’t have,” Karmon explained.
Israel is widely believed to be responsible for a Jan. 18 airstrike against that foothold in southern Syria, which killed six Hezbollah operatives and six Iranians, including notorious Hezbollah commander Jihad Mughniyeh and Iranian general Mohammad Ali Allahdadi.
Karmon believes the airstrike “was a message sent by Israel” to forewarn Iran and Hezbollah not to continue their military efforts in Syrian territory.
The retaliatory attacks by Hezbollah following the deadly airstrike were widely expected. That the more sophisticated Kornet anti-tank missiles were fired from Lebanon and not Syria provides a strong indication that the Syrian position is not as well-stocked with weaponry as southern Lebanon – a zone that was supposed to remain completely demilitarized under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which arranged for the cessation of hostilities following the Second Lebanon War of 2006.
“Resolution 1701 calls for complete disarmament in southern Lebanon and, yet, Hezbollah, instead of disarming, they have amassed some 80,000-90,000 missiles,” Karmon said.
“Now, they want to achieve the same equation in southern Syria. If Israel does not stop them, and there are two to three years with relative quiet, with only occasional penetrations of our border and sometimes mortar fire and so on, a kind of ‘war of attrition,’ then all of a sudden we will find ourselves staring at 5,000-10,000 missiles,” he said.
Read more at jns.org.