by: Ron Ben-Yishai
Thursday, 30 July 2020 | While not all is known about Monday’s incident when a group of armed militants attempted to infiltrate from Lebanon, it is clear the start of it was last Monday night, when, according to international media reports, the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] conducted a strike near the Damascus airport targeting weapons and ammunition that had arrived from Iran and was intended for Hezbollah forces.
A Hezbollah operative who was on the ground, perhaps to assist and monitor the transport of the shipment to Lebanon, was killed in the attack.
The organization decided to respond to this death in accordance with a doctrine announced by its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, in 2015 that called for every casualty to be avenged.
Hezbollah intended to maintain its deterrence in the face of Israel while also proving to its Iranian benefactors that it is the most efficient and powerful proxy the Islamic Republic now has in the Middle East.
But the terror group did not wish to take action that would be in violation of Israel’s sovereignty and force the Israelis to respond militarily deep inside Lebanon. The aim was to exact a price from the IDF in an area that is disputed territory—the Shebaa Farms on the slopes of Har Dov, which the group views as Lebanese territory under Israeli occupation and therefore fair game for action against Israel.
But the Shiite group also intended to hurt soldiers, either by hitting a tank or a military post, and avoid harm to civilians, thereby achieving military success without incurring painful repercussions.
The IDF was prepared for just that eventuality and had positioned its tanks under the cover of vegetation. The military also set fires in the area to create a curtain of smoke further obscuring its forces.
Early detection of the infiltrators enabled the Israeli forces to wait until the militants crossed over the border and only then use its tanks and mortars, and light fires.
The IDF refrained from shooting before the cell had crossed the Blue Line international border to avoid giving Hezbollah another excuse to act by claiming civilian casualties in Lebanese territory. As soon as the border was breached, however, the IDF opened fire and shot to kill.
The question now is: what’s next? It is clear that Hezbollah does not want to cause casualties among Israeli civilians, which is why the IDF quickly announced that roads along the border were open for civilian traffic and local residents were no longer confined to their homes.
But the Lebanese terror group may not see this operation as a success and may still be trying to exact a price from Israel.
Hezbollah’s reaction was destined to fail as retaliation, and its Radwan force in southern Lebanon may be plotting a later attack. They would be searching for Israeli weaknesses along the border and may strike either in the same location or perhaps on the Golan Heights—although the latter is a less likely scenario.
The coming days will remain tense, and the IDF forces will maintain their high alert along the border until the terror group’s intentions become clearer.
Israel has no interest in escalating tensions. There is also no reason to after Monday’s incident ended without IDF casualties. This was a blow to Nasrallah and his organization, and the IDF needs nothing more to prove its deterrence.
Still, the troops must remain alert in case any other militants remain in the area and intend to carry out an attack on the forces there.
The tactical mind games, therefore, continue.
Posted on July 30, 2020
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