Today, a barrage of mortar and anti-tank fire struck an Israeli military (IDF) convoy in the occupied Shebaa farms, killing at least 4 IDF soldiers. This attack was in response to the January 18th Israeli attack on a Hezbollah outpost in the Golan, which wiped out strategists orchestrating Hezbollah’s campaign there. Six key Hezbollah members, including Jihad Mughniyeh (son of the late commander Imad Mughniyeh) and an Iranian general in the Quds force, Muhammad Ali Allahdadi, were killed, although Israel denied that targeting him was intentional. Hezbollah decided to orchestrate their response to this strike in south Lebanon’s disputed Shebaa farms.
Israel responded to today’s ambush with “aerial and ground strikes at Hezbollah operational positions”, presumably killing several Hezbollah men in the process. Israel would only confirm that they had taken “several casualties” among the IDF’s ranks in the process. Over 30 Israeli shells struck back at Hezbollah positions in response. Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV claims some nine vehicles were destroyed. A Spanish United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) soldier was also killed.
Hezbollah issued a short “statement number one” which confirmed that they had taken responsibility for the attack in south Lebanon. The statement claimed that:
At 11:25 [Wednesday morning] the Quneitra Martyrs unit targeted with appropriate missile weapons an Israeli military convoy comprising several vehicles and [transporting] Zionist officers and soldiers causing the destruction of several vehicles and inflicting many casualties on the enemy.”
The two are still reportedly exchanging fire; Israel firing shells, Hezbollah responding with “projectiles”. Alexander Marquardt, ABC Beirut correspondent has said that it seems as if both sides want to put up “proportionate” responses to the other, especially since no Israeli soldiers have been captured (a nightmare for Israel, which has an active policy of trying to kill both captive soldiers and their captors).
Hezbollah’s motive for this attack should be clear to everyone who has followed the conflict thus far, namely the huge amounts of prestige it has lost around the world (and especially in the Middle East) due to its intervention in Syria on behalf of Iran, fighting on the side of Bashar al-Assad’s genocidal regime. Hezbollah men have committed horrible atrocities and are highly active on the front lines, fighting the Syrian resistance fighters in every sphere of the conflict.
They’ve also become involved in something of a quagmire in the Qalamoun and Dimashq regions. At first, Hezbollah’s men, backed up by Assad’s forces (the latter being the much weaker of the two parties) were able to achieve some rapid-fire victories between November 2013 and April 2014, capturing An-Nabk, re-opening the Damascus-Homs highway, Maaloula, Yabroud, and many other towns. However, thousands of resistance fighters regrouped in the mountains and have launched guerrilla warfare against the men of Hezbollah and Assad, inflicting considerable casualties, and draining their manpower. Hezbollah has been forced to conscript non-Shiites in an attempt to reverse their losses, as well as young men and others. None of these, of course, are sufficient replacements for the highly trained men that were inexorably lost in Qusayr, Qalamoun, and all over Syria.
In short, Hezbollah is now either immensely unpopular or held in contempt by everyone, save for much of its ever-loyal Lebanese constituency, and one or two foreign Shiite admirers. Its battles in Syria are killing off its men, its image is forever tarnished, and supporters are increasingly complaining; the businesses and homes of the Shiite extremist group have now, ironically become the targets of Sunni extremists as a result of its actions.
This attack by Hezbollah was thus a crucial move in order to save face. Over the past two years, Israel has struck at Assad and Hezbollah over and over again, and there has been no response from either Iran, Assad, or the group, aside from empty words. Only empty promises of retaliation.
In January 2013, Israeli strikes blew up a large shipment of anti-aircraft weaponry being sent from Assad to Hezbollah. In April 2013, Israel then shot down a Hezbollah drone, making sure to brag about it. In May 2013, they again struck the Rif Dimashq area and destroyed Fateh-110 and Scud-D missiles being sent from Iran to Hezbollah via Syria. Then on July 5th 2013, an Israeli strike on the Syrian port of Lattakia (in Assad’s alawite heartland) obliterated Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles. On October 31st, there was another strike. On February 24th 2014, Israeli strikes killed Hezbollah men and destroyed their positions near the Lebanese border. In March 2014 two Hezbollah men were shot when they attempted to place a bomb near the border fence in the occupied Golan. On December 7th 2014 Israel struck close to Damascus international airport and Dimas, again destroying S-300 missiles bound for Hezbollah. Two Hezbollah men were killed, including a commander.
The January 2015 attack was clearly the last straw for Hezbollah. Again and again, they had promised to retaliate for such attacks, and nothing had happened. This wasn’t unnoticed by people around the world, who constantly pour scorn onto Assad and Hezbollah for “retaliating” against Israel… By slaughtering innocent Syrians. (see below).
Hezbollah had to both put a show for the world, and for its constituency, and this is what it came up with. But it’s four years too late. The hypocrisy simply cannot be undone. Hezbollah supported the revolution in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Libya, in Yemen… But suddenly claimed that Syria was somehow different, that events in Syria were part of a “conspiracy” against Assad’s regime, and sent fighters into Syria to slaughter the Syrian people; openly doing so in Qusayr in April 2013, which they ethnically cleansed and proclaimed a Shiite city.
The truly hollow nature of their “resistance” to Israel was made yet more abundantly clear by Nasrallah and his chameleon-like ways. For years, he has been threatening to annihilate Israel, to fight them to the end, you name it (and has, disgustingly, claimed that slaughtering Syrians is somehow fighting Israel). Yet in 2013 he sent secret assurances to Israel that Lebanon’s borders were the “safest place in the world” for the Israeli regime! Yet in 2015 he’s back to attacking Israel again. How can he claim to have any kind of moral consistency? Somehow we’re supposed to believe that it has nothing to do with the constant hammering of his men by the Israelis. Or the fact that an Iranian Quds Force general was killed in the latest strike. Hezbollah’s former secretary general Subhi al-Tufayli has even frankly stated that the group are acting as Israel’s border guards (although Hezbollah does conduct faux-“resistance” whenever it’s pragmatic to do so).
That in itself illustrates what is behind this Hezbollah ambush: the omnipresent hand of Iran. Note that all the other times that Israel has struck Hezbollah and Assad, Hezbollah has failed to openly respond once. Yet as soon as an Iranian is killed, Hezbollah responds within two weeks. It must be so reassuring to Hezbollah supporters to know that their lives matter so much…
It’s also very telling that Hezbollah parrots “resistance” to US interests in the region, yet Obama has grown close to Hezbollah and Iran to the extent that they are now conducting negotiations and intelligence sharing as a part of Obama’s new alliance with Iran (for more on that, see my piece here) and Iran’s threats to Israel are being sent via the United States. Some “resistance”.
No amount of false, face-saving, cynical “resistance” to Israel by means of occasional, patchy attacks on groups of IDF men will atone for the fact that Hezbollah is now flogging a dead horse. Nobody sees it as a “resistance” organisation anymore. In fact, they see it for what it is, and always has been: a tool of Iran that is guilty of taking part in a genocidal war against the Syrian people. Four dead IDF soldiers will never, and can never, justify the precious lives of hundreds of thousands of Syrians. The morally-selective “resistance” supporters who pander to their line would do well to remember that.