Ron Ben-Yishai/Ynetnews/Hezbollah’s restrained revenge for Lebanon border skirmish

290

Hezbollah’s restrained revenge for Lebanon border skirmish
Ron Ben-Yishai/Ynetnews
Published: 10.08.14/Israel Opinion
Analysis: After Lebanese people blamed the militant group for jihadists attacks on its territory, and Israel said it poses little threat, Nasrallah chose Mount Dov as the playground for its offensive operations.
There is no doubt Hezbollah was behind the attack in Mount Dov, near the Shebaa Farms, on Tuesday. The location is important, as we will later see. The choice of a series of explosives detonated from afar has the organization’s fingerprints all over it.
The objectives behind the attack are also crystal clear: A combination between “exacting revenge,” an effort to show the Lebanese citizens that Hezbollah is indeed still the “defender of Lebanon,” and a statement made to solidify Hezbollah and the Lebanese government’s claims that the Shebaa Farms are sovereign Lebanese territory, even though it wasn’t recognized as such by the UN, which is why Israel did not withdraw from the area in May 2000 when it pulled out of southern Lebanon. Even before it claimed responsibility, it was obvious Hezbollah carried out the attack. This area, that Hezbollah constantly charged is Lebanese territory occupied by Israel, is where, two days ago, an IDF force exchanged fire with armed Lebanese men, probably Lebanese Army soldiers who penetrated Israeli territory. This is also where Hezbollah kidnapped Israeli soldiers in 2000.
The tools chosen for the attack – scattered explosives that are remote-controlled by well-hidden Hezbollah men who overlook the scene of the attack – is also typical of the organization, which gained extensive experience fighting in the Syria civil war.
Still, it is important to note the remote-controlled explosive device did not inflict any losses on the IDF and even the injuries caused – shrapnel to the hand of one soldier and to the leg of another – were very mild. This was probably intentional, as Hezbollah has no interest in escalating the situation on the frontier.
The IDF probably figured out Hezbollah would try to commit such an attack as revenge for the Sunday clash between Israeli and Lebanese soldiers. That is why the IDF force was careful not to fall into the trap posed by the scattered explosives. But as far as Hezbollah is concerned, it has achieved its objectives completely.
The organization declares itself the defender of Lebanon, but in recent days that reputation was tarnished by criticism against Nasrallah and Hezbollah, as a result of the group’s involvement in battles against rebels in Syria and the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq.
It’s not just the Sunni citizens of Lebanon who are accusing Hezbollah, working in Assad’s service, of “motivating” the Islamic State and the Nusra Front to attack Lebanese cities. The Shiites in the Beqaa Valley, north of the Hezbollah capital in Baalbek, have condemned Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria, which led the Sunni Jihadists to fire rockets at them and launch attacks against them from their stronghold in the Qalamoun Mountains.
Hezbollah must now show it is protecting Lebanon, and the clash with the IDF earlier this week gave it an excuse and an opportunity to launch a retaliatory attack which also awarded the organization prestige in the Lebanese public opinion.
But Tuesday’s attack at Mount Dov likely serves another purpose for Hezbollah: The organization keeps hearing comments coming from Israel on how Hezbollah is “too busy” and therefore doesn’t pose as a threat. The Hezbollah leadership knows these assessments are basically correct, but it is interested in showing Israel, as well as the Lebanese people and the organization’s fighters, that the Israeli front is not dormant and remains relevant to Hezbollah still. This is why it chose Mount Dov for an attack that would show it does not forgive nor does it forget its fight against Israel, and that it has not forgotten it has yet to avenge senior Hezbollah operative Imad Mughniyah’s assassination.
Mount Dov has always been Hezbollah’s playground, where it displays its power and gathers intelligence. It is clear the organization’s recent actions do not threaten Israeli civilians at the moment, only IDF soldiers, so Israel will respond accordingly. And indeed, the IDF responded with artillery fire, destroying two Hezbollah lookout posts in the area.
In the coming days we will probably see Hezbollah leaving evidence of their presence in the form of fighters posing as shepherds who will come near the border fence and possibly try to challenge the IDF.
In conclusion, we could say Hezbollah is probably interested in tensions on the northern front, but is not in all-out escalation. That is why it chose the Mount Dov playground. It is possible that the Lebanese army soldiers who exchanged fire with the IDF earlier this week were there because Hezbollah sent them to the area in order to cause provocation and test the IDF’s alertness without causing an overall escalation.