Jerusalem – Throughout the war in Lebanon this summer the Israeli armed forces conducted a manhunt for Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah with the intention of killing him.
Now, however, Israeli political and military sources say his assassination is no longer on the agenda.
The question of whether to eliminate Hassan Nasrallah arose several times during the 34-day conflict this past summer. In the first few days of the war the Israel Defense Force leadership preferred not to kill him, but as the war progressed it was decided that he should be a target for assassination.
When the war ended, IDF Intelligence recommended that the hunt for Nasrallah should not continue, due to the cease-fire and the assessment that the international community would not accept such an act. Another reason for this view was that the killing would cause a resumption of the war with more violence than before.
Nevertheless, in spite of the recommendation of IDF Intelligence, the political echelon ordered that preparations for killing Nasrallah should continue, and this policy remained in force until September 22.
On that day, Hezbollah held its victory rally in Beirut, and promised that Nasrallah would be there for his first public appearance since he went underground. Before the rally IDF officers took the view that it would be possible to kill him from the air, but only at the cost of killing dozens of bystanders. This time the political echelon accepted the army’s recommendation that an assassination would not be appropriate.
After that there was a growing acceptance by the political echelon that the possibility of assassinating Nasrallah should be removed from the agenda and that the hunt for him should be discontinued – at least for the next few months.
In the meantime, at a meeting of the Israeli Defense Minister with senior officers last Wednesday, it was decided that provocations by Hezbollah against Israeli armed forces along the Lebanese/Israeli border should meet with a tough reaction. In the past few weeks Hezbollah supporters have returned to the border fence to demonstrate and provoke Israeli soldiers.
The security establishment has decided not to let this pass without retaliation. The Northern Command has decided to train soldiers to disperse demonstrations in a manner similar to the training given to soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza.
“The IDF does not intend to let Hezbollah supporters demonstrate with impunity,” a source in Northern Command said late last week. “Our practice of ignoring demonstrations after the withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000 will not be repeated this time. We have informed UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] and officers of the Lebanese army that if the demonstrations continue after our forces withdraw from Lebanese territory, we will take steps to disperse them and to chase the Hezbollah supporters with the flags away from the border fence.”
©The Bulletin 2006