Hizballah is liable to look for revenge by “selectively firing” Katyushas, attempting headline-grabbing attacks in southern Lebanon in the coming days or by concentrated attacks on IDF and SLA positions.
The elimination of military leaders has been part of the rules of the game in southern Lebanon for years. More than this — it is a permanent and mutual policy.
Israel and Hizballah routinely gather information on each others’ commanders, and constantly search for ways to hit at them. Only two weeks ago, pictures and names of IDF commanders were discovered in a Hizballah cache in the western part of the security zone. These pictures, it should be noted, were not being gathered for the historical record. Hizballah commanders constantly change their routes and check their cars, out of fear of explosive devices. They know very well that they are potential targets for assassination.
In a war like that being conducted in southern Lebanon, the assassination of a military commander has much greater moral and operational significance than in other forms of combat, and both sides know this. When Hizballah killed Brigadier-General Erez Gerstein, they saw this, according to their public declarations, as a legitimate operation within the “Grapes of Wrath” understandings. The fact that Hassan Salameh, killed yesterday, was a senior military commander, connected to the second level of the organisation’s hierarchy — was not apparently sufficient to stop the heads of the organisation from threatening revenge.
A different possible form of Hizballah response might have been to have fired Katyushas at unpopulated areas, and to have tested the Israeli response. If firing of this kind was carried out, and the IDF did not respond in line with the norm set on June 24 (when the IAF attacked infrastructure targets in Lebanon) — then Israel would suffer serious strategic damage, and would return to the same low point in its deterrent capacity at which it stood prior to those attacks.
If not by Katyushas, — the Hizballah will seek its revenge through a large-scale terrorist attack in southern Lebanon in the coming days, or in a concentrated attack on IDF and SLA positions.
The order of the day in Israeli policy in Lebanon is to maintain quiet. The elimination of a senior military commander, which is liable to set the area ablaze with fighting, does not exactly jibe with the possibility of starting a dialogue with the Syrians. But because Israel did not take responsibility for the assassination, the issue of the prudence behind the action is not, as it were, on the agenda.