Has Hezbollah retaliated against Israel already?

Israeli soldiers patrol along the Israel-Syria border on March 5, 2014 after Israel's army said it struck two members of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah as they tried to plant a bomb near the border. (Photo: AFP-Jalaa Marey)

By: Yahya Dabouq, Firas Choufi

Published Thursday, March 6, 2014

Four days after Israel announced that an Israeli military post in Mount Hermon was hit with two missiles, the Israeli army announced yesterday that its units stationed in the occupied Golan Heights targeted “a cell working with Hezbollah that tried to plant a bomb near a barbed wire fence.”

The head of Israeli Northern Command, Yair Golan, issued an order declaring the border with the Golan Heights a closed military zone. Civilian populations in nearby settlements were instructed not to get close to the border, specifically farmers, who were prevented from going to their orchards.

Based on information from Israeli military sources, news agencies reported that the “subversive group” consisted of two Hezbollah fighters and that they were shot and injured as they were trying to plant a bomb. Other military sources however told the Israeli army radio that the group consisted of three members who planted a bomb near the barbed wire fence and that a tank fired a shell at them as they tried to detonate the bomb.

The army radio pointed out that the security establishment is examining the relationship between the bomb incident and the rocket firing on Mount Hermon days ago. According to security sources, “it is not unlikely that Hezbollah would try to carry out an operation in retaliation as the party had accused Israel of bombing one of its bases in Lebanon.”

The Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reported, based on information from security sources, that the Golan operation and the rocket firing incident are thought to be part of Hezbollah’s response: “Even if the party is not interested in a war with Israel now, it believes that Israel has crossed a red line by carrying out a raid in Lebanon.” It also pointed out that Hezbollah was accustomed to “an-eye-for-an-eye kind of retaliation but now it is looking into a different kind of response.”

In the evening, the Israeli army’s Northern Command declared a state of alert and raised the level of mobilization at army positions and units deployed in the Golan Heights along the border with Syria to very high levels. This indicates that the Israeli army does not believe that the Golan bomb incident will end the tension and the security escalation along the border.

Regarding the news announced by the Israelis about “shooting and injuring two Hezbollah fighters while they were planting a bomb near the border,” informed security sources said “the Resistance is not interested in confirming or denying of any Israeli claims.” The decision is clear for the Resistance, Israel is not allowed to create a buffer zone for its protection and the Lebanese and Syrian fronts will not be separated.

The battles in southern Syria get more intense day after day, especially in the southwest province of Quneitra adjacent to the occupied Golan Heights. As the battles rage in the province, the public nature of direct Israeli interference in their progress becomes more obvious with the Syrian government’s growing claims about an Israeli logistical, moral, and intelligence support for opposition fighters. A fact the fighters do not deny as they have established with the occupation army an integrated system of treating wounded fighters in Israeli hospitals has been publicized.

The Israeli artillery bombardment yesterday of two Syrian army posts in the town of al-Hamidiyeh in the central sector of Quneitra falls within this context as well.

Military sources familiar with the Quneitra area told Al-Akhbar that there is “a state of high alert in the ranks of the Israeli army in the occupied territories,” stressing that the “Israeli army’s response of shelling al-Hamidiyeh came after the Syrian army targeted a group of fighters who tried to infiltrate through the Israeli barbed wire fence towards the the northern sector and succeeded in injuring some of them.” The source points out that the “two targeted posts were recaptured by the Syrian army from the hands of the fighters months ago and they are now paralyzing the fighters’ movement towards Quneitra and the northern sector of the province.”

The source explains how “Israel changed the location of landmines some time ago and dug trenches to help the fighters move without being seen by Syrian forces.”

This escalation and the direct Israeli accusations against Hezbollah that it carried out military operations in the Syrian Golan Heights were the first of their kind.

Syrian security agencies and Hezbollah realize that Israel is using the opportunity to achieve what it has wanted for a long time, namely, push the Syrian army fighting units away from its northern border and exploit the abundant water resources in the valleys and hills of the liberated part of the Golan Heights.

Experts say that “Israel benefits from the chaotic situation at the border and that it tried to transform a threatening situation into an opportunity by supporting the fighters in order to form a buffer zone similar to the one that existed in Lebanon that prevents connecting the Syrian and Lebanese fronts in the future.”

The sources say the “decision is clear among members of the Resistance, Israel is not allowed to create a security zone and it is not allowed to separate the two fronts.”

According to the information obtained from military sources in the field, “the Syrian army sent reinforcements to the Golan and it is preventing, with the help of the popular committees, fighters who move the injured in their ranks to Israeli hospitals from settling in any spot.”

Claims about Hezbollah’s active presence in the Quneitra region is neither officially confirmed nor denied. According to local sources in the Quneitra province, “reconnaissance of the front with the occupied territories was carried out a while ago by individuals involved with the Resistance and officers from the Syrian Republican Guard,” and that there is significant activity by “unidentified resistance fighters” that have no connection to the direct confrontations between the Syrian army and the opposition’s fighters deployed close to the border with the occupied Golan Heights.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem pointed out in front of the parliament yesterday that the “Israeli attack on al-Hamidiyeh in the Golan came after Israel felt that our forces carried out a pre-emptive operation from the northern Golan to Daraa and the Jordanian border to undercut any thinking about creating a buffer zone in the Golan Heights for protecting Israel’s security.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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