The northern frontier of Israel has begun heating up once again. After a clash in the Golan Heights, where Israel struck across into Syria and reportedly killed a visiting Iranian general working with Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terror network struck Israel today. The attack wounded four IDF troops, and Israel responded by shelling Hezbollah positions in Lebanon, where the attack originated. The crossfire killed a UN peacekeeper in UNIFIL:
A Hezbollah missile strike wounded four Israeli soldiers on Wednesday, the biggest attack on Israeli forces by the Lebanese guerrilla group since a 34-day war in 2006.
In an apparent revenge attack for an Israeli air strike in Syria that killed senior Hezbollah members, the group said its “Quneitra Martyrs Brigade” had carried out Wednesday’s hit on an Israeli convoy in the Shebaa Farms frontier area, prompting concerns of further escalation.
Lebanon’s National News Agency said an Israeli soldier had been captured in the operation, but the Israeli military immediately denied that.
Hezbollah also struck across the Golan Heights:
The Israel Defence Forces confirmed a separate mortar attack in the Golan Heights on Wednesday.
“Initial reports suggest that an anti-tank missile was fired at a military vehicle near Mt Dov in northern Israel,” the Israel Defence Forces said on Twitter.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted: “At this moment the IDF responds to events in the North. We will not allow terrorists to disrupt the lives of our citizens and threaten their security. We will respond forcefully those who try to challenge us.”
Despite the loss of the UNIFIL peacekeeper (reportedly from Spain), Israel has apparently asked UNIFIL to remain at their posts in Lebanon. That would rule out the possibility of an Israeli incursion in force across the border, as the IDF would want UNIFIL out of the way before attempting any such invasion.
The question is what happens now. One would presume that this is just a tit-for-tat trade across the border like uncountable others rather than a prelude to a larger war. Hezbollah has its hands full in Syria, keeping Bashar al-Assad afloat in what is now at least a fractured state, if not a flat-out failed state. They and Iran are busy trying to keep ISIS from ripping more of Syria from Tehran’s grasp, not to mention Iraq, which is a greater issue for Iran than the Israelis, at least for the moment. Israel might see this moment as a propitious one to attack a weakened and overstretched Hezbollah, but another war in Lebanon wouldn’t help Benjamin Netanyahu in the middle of an election, either.
This is likely nothing more than chess moves in a much longer game. If no abductions occurred — Hezbollah initially claimed the capture of one IDF soldier, but the IDF said they accounted for all personnel — then all will likely return to the standoff along the northern borders. For now, anyway.
Update: Worth noting: Two weeks ago, Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah threatened to invade Galilee, and Hezbollah started moving in that direction shortly afterward. If an Iranian general got killed in the crossfire, one has to wonder just what involvement Iran had in that plan. (via Omri Ceren)