Israel braces itself as Iran vows ‘ruinous thunderbolts’
Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star/Jan. 21, 2015
BEIRUT: The weekend Israeli raid that killed six Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general in Syria’s Golan Heights continued to reverberate across the volatile region Tuesday, as Israel prepared for a Hezbollah retaliation and the chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard promised the Jewish state “ruinous thunderbolts.” The parliamentary Future bloc, meanwhile, condemned the Israeli airstrike that targeted a Hezbollah convoy in the Syrian town of Qunaitra Sunday and called for distancing Lebanon from any involvement that threatens its security. “Any attack by the Israeli enemy on any Arab territory, regardless of the circumstances, is entirely rejected and condemned,” the bloc said in a statement after its weekly meeting. “While it condemns the Israeli attack in Qunaitra, the Future bloc sees that Lebanon’s security and the safety of the Lebanese should be at the top of Lebanese priorities.”
However, Future MP Atef Majdalani, who attended the bloc’s meeting, went further by warning that Hezbollah retaliation over the Israeli raid would plunge Lebanon into a new war with Israel. “Any response by Hezbollah to the Qunaitra attack either from Lebanese territory or from outside will involve Lebanon and the Lebanese in a war with Israel which needs pretexts to start it,” he told the Voice of Lebanon radio station. Speaker Nabih Berri said the Qunaitra raid showed that Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu, who is seeking re-election in the March polls, “voted with the blood of the Lebanese after he had voted in France with the blood of French Jews when he called on them to leave and return to Israel.”
“He [Netanyahu] is contesting the parliamentary elections with blood and he might win because he always resorts to this tactic,” Berri was quoted by Ain al-Tineh visitors as saying. “Netanyahu joined the demonstration in Paris against terrorism and he returned to practice it in Qunaitra.”Asked how Hezbollah would respond to the Israeli raid, Berri said: “Israel is not the one who decides for Hezbollah the date and place of retaliation. In my estimation, Hezbollah will not give Israel a political or security card and its command is the one that decides the time and place of retaliation.” Hezbollah’s silence on its possible response has apparently kept Israel on edge amid heightened fears of a harsh response, especially because the six victims included a top military commander and Jihad Mughniyeh, a 25-year-old son of slain military commander Imad Mughniyeh.
In occupied Jerusalem, Israeli military officials said the country was on high alert for possible attacks from Hezbollah following the Qunaitra attack. Israeli officials told the Associated Press that the country has boosted deployment of its “Iron Dome” aerial defense system along its northern frontier with Lebanon, and has increased surveillance in the area. Israel’s Channel 10 meanwhile described the border area with Lebanon as a “closed area” and “military zone,” saying that farmers have been banned from approaching the frontier. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied the raid. Israeli authorities have also closed the airspace over the Israeli-occupied section of the Golan Heights and in the Galilee region to civilian aircraft, reports said.
Israeli military intelligence website Debka said that emergency shelters have been opened and military arsenals are being prepared. Reuters quoted a senior security source in occupied Jerusalem as saying that Israel did not target the Iranian Revolutionary Guard general killed in the Qunaitra raid. The remarks by the Israeli source, who declined to be identified because Israel has not officially confirmed it carried out the strike, appeared aimed at containing any escalation with Iran or Hezbollah. Iranian Revolutionary Guard Birg Gen. Mohammad Ali Allahdadi was killed along with the six Hezbollah fighters in the Israeli attack.
For its part, Iran has vowed to strike back. “These martyrdoms proved the need to stick with jihad and provided another indication about the nearing collapse of the Zionist entity. The Zionists must await ruinous thunderbolts after their crime in Qunaitra,” Gen. Mohammad Ali Jaafari, commander of the Revolutionary Guard, was quoted as saying by Fars News Agency. “The Revolutionary Guard will fight to the end of the Zionist regime … We will not rest easy until this epitome of vice is totally deleted from the region’s geopolitics,” he added. Asked if Israel expected Iranian or Hezbollah retaliation for the airstrike, the Israeli source said: “They are almost certain to respond. We are anticipating that, but I think it’s a fair assumption that a major escalation is not in the interest of either side.”
Meanwhile, Hezbollah buried Tuesday three of its slain fighters in their hometowns in south Lebanon. Hundreds of mourners carried the Hezbollah yellow flag-draped coffins of the three fighters in three separate funerals attended by senior Hezbollah officials, amid an air of pride and defiance following the Israeli airstrike. Hezbollah flags and military fatigues swamped the town of Arab Salim in Nabatieh, as the coffin of field commander Mohammad Issa arrived at his hometown to an outpouring of grief and anger, with moments of celebratory gunfire peppered throughout.
Mourners yelled out “Death to Israel” and “We will do anything for you, Hussein,” referring to revered Shiite figure and grandson of Prophet Mohammad, Hussein Ibn-Ali. The scene was similar in Yohmor, also in Nabatieh, where a sea of mourners spilled onto the streets to commemorate the death of Ali Hasan Ibrahim, 21, the youngest of the six killed. “Twenty years after the martyrdom of the father, the son is martyred in the same way,” Hezbollah MP Nawaf al-Moussawi said during the funeral procession.
In the town of Khiam in Marjayoun, the father of Ghazi Ali al-Dawi marched ahead of his son’s coffin with a somber expression and a party banner wrapped around his neck. Men dressed in military fatigues carried his casket across his hometown as Dawi’s baby daughter was lifted up above the crowds. Jihad Mughniyeh was laid to rest next to his father’s tomb Monday in Beirut’s southern suburbs. Two more slain fighters are set to be buried in south Lebanon Wednesday, according to Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV.