Fears of a possible Hezbollah attack along Israel’s northern border marking the first anniversary of terrorist leader Imad Mughniyah’s assassination is a major reason for Israel’s tepid response to renewed Palestinian rocket attacks.
Mughniyah was responsible for numerous terror attacks against American and Israeli targets around the world prior to his death, including the 1983 Beirut Marine barrack bombing and a 1994 attack against a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak chose Tuesday to tour Israel’s northern border, along with Israeli Northern Commander Maj. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and Galilee Division Commander Brig. Gen. Imad Fares. In the course of the tour, Mr. Barak commented on one of the issues currently troubling Israel on the northern front-the transfer of weapons from Syria to Hezbollah.
“There are systems that could disrupt the balance that exists in Lebanon, and we will have to weigh our reaction if they should pass,” Mr. Barak said in the course of the tour.
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Mr. Barak conveyed an unequivocal message to Hezbollah in advance of the anniversary of Mughniyah’s death, on Feb. 12.
“I don’t recommend that Hezbollah test us. The outcome could be more painful than they think. The Lebanese government bears overall responsibility,” Mr. Barak said.
The Israeli Army Northern Command has raised its state of alert, for fear of a revenge attack by Hezbollah on the border and fears of a terror attack against Israeli targets abroad.
Mr. Barak examined the Northern Command’s plans for the possibility of deterioration, and approved them.
Israeli army officials assess that Hezbollah will try to stage a terror attack, but not one that will lead to renewed warfare with Israel.
Mr. Barak also commented on a Hamas rocket attack against Ashkelon in southern Israel.
“I suggest that Hamas not get too clever. The Grad rocket that fell in Ashkelon will not pass without a response. The dove has not yet returned with an olive branch, because the water has not yet receded,” Mr. Barak said. “Hamas tried to sow death and destruction, and suffered a harsh and painful blow. Hamas will no longer be what it was before.”
Israel limited its response to the Ashkelon attack yesterday to an air strike by the Israeli Air Force (IAF).
IAF planes attacked smuggling tunnels on Philadelphi Road along the Egyptian border and two Hamas positions, one in Beit Lahiya and the other in the Khan Yunis area in the Gaza Strip.
No one was injured in the strikes, since the residents of Rafah received prior notification warning them of an IAF strike, which also called on them to leave their homes.
Meanwhile, sources in Rafah reported yesterday that in total, about 200 of the 500 tunnels that were active before the war had been hit.
One Gaza resident said yesterday, “the situation in Gaza is becoming harsher from day to day. We live in a disgusting situation. The social and economic situation is terrible, and the political situation is even worse. If the Rafah crossing should be opened tomorrow to free passage, at least 200,000 of Gaza’s residents would escape and not return, and I would be among them.”
David Bedein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org