Hezbollah, Hamas seek to exploit Israel’s internal weakness to attack
As of Friday morning, Israeli security agencies are still searching for the identity of an attacker who entered the country from Lebanon on Monday. The attacker detonated a device on the side of the road in the north of the country, seriously injuring a driver. Although the attacker was later killed, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are still concerned about this precedent.
The incident began last Monday. Residents of northern Israel faced three days of grim uncertainty and apocalyptic rumors after photos appeared on social media showing the arrest of an unidentified man at gunpoint near the border fence with Lebanon. Rumors of the cowering man’s unexplained arrest were linked on social media to a powerful roadside explosion early Monday near the Megiddo Junction, about 40 miles south of the border, in which an Israeli driver, an Arab citizen of Israel, was seriously injured.
No explanation was given for this connection or these events because the military censor imposed a sweeping gag order, which fueled further fears. According to one rumor, four Hezbollah members had infiltrated Israel from Lebanon through an attack tunnel and almost carried out a mass terror attack. Emerging complaints from mayors of towns in northern Israel about the lack of government funding for anti-rocket shelters have only muddled the matter further.
When the gag order was finally lifted on Wednesday, the facts soon became far from the rumors. According to official statements by the army and the Shin Bet security agency, a terrorist had indeed infiltrated Israel from Lebanon, the first such infiltration in many years. He was said to be armed and trained. Its point of entry is not yet clear, nor is its organizational affiliation. Most indications clearly point to Hezbollah, which controls much of southern Lebanon. Israeli officials say that even if the Palestinian infiltration that caused Shiite radicalization by Hezbollah, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah is responsible.
Either way, the infiltrator made his way to the Megiddo area, planted an explosive device and returned towards the border fence – all under the watchful eye of the army, police and Shin Bet. It took far too long for these agencies and their army of intelligence to connect the dots and find the car he was traveling in driven by an apparently blacked-out Israeli. After scouring the roads for several hours, the vehicle was located and stopped. Special forces ordered the two passengers out, but only the driver complied and came out with his hands in the air. His passenger refused. According to official reports, he was shot dead just as he was about to detonate the powerful explosive belt he was wearing.
“If this is terrorism that Hezbollah has planted in Israel,” a senior Israeli military official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “it means that someone decided to take a risk and break the rules of the game, even at the cost of the game. war in the north.” If this “man” is Nasrallah, he could spell the long-standing fallout between Israel and Hezbollah that was achieved after the 2006 war.
“As far as we know, there is no change in the fact that Nasrallah has been blocked by Israel since the second Lebanon war,” a senior Israeli security official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “We still don’t know who deployed this terrorist, but we know that this kind of professional and precise attack – for which we have been preparing for a long time – cannot happen on this side without Nasrallah, and this worries us.”
Israel is deeply concerned, less about the events themselves than the circumstances under which they occurred. Many former Israeli officials have warned in recent weeks that Israel’s enemies have become enmeshed in the massive public protests against the judicial overhaul that are being moved quickly through the Knesset and signs that internal cohesion is become obsolete. The protests have spread to demonstrations of disobedience on the part of reserve officers who form the backbone of many security units, including the air force and the cyber and intelligence forces, as well as the Mossad and Shin Bet.
The IDF may still block Hezbollah knowing that the Israeli army has only grown stronger since then. Most assessments say Nasrallah is unlikely to be motivated at this point to confront Israel’s strong military. Still, Israeli security experts are not discounting this scenario.
Nasrallah’s rhetoric in recent weeks has lent credence to that possibility. Addressing his followers, Nasrallah claimed that Israel might not survive to celebrate its 80th birthday, referring to the upcoming 75th Independence Day. Hamas leaders Marwan Issa of the Gaza Strip and Saleh al-Arouri also warned of “surprises” for Israel in the future, as Muslims prepare to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan, causing tension in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in always. In Israel, meanwhile, rhetoric by nationalist extremists like National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich continues to stoke the fires on both sides.
The diplomatic field is hardly exciting, either. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees his particular goal of normalization with Saudi Arabia going up in these scattered flames, as Riyadh renews its relationship with its sworn enemy – rather than with Israel with which it successfully engages behind the scenes. of the present. The United Arab Emirates — one of the four Muslim countries that normalized relations with Israel in recent years, along with Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — has done the same; Bahrain is also going there.
The Israeli-American concept of an implicit regional Sunni defense alliance led by Israel against Iran seems to be collapsing, because the United States has other fish to fry and because Israel is signaling weakness. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Emirati President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan see the direction in which Netanyahu is leading Israel and are reluctant to jump on this unstable bandwagon.
Few people would want to be in the shoes of the Israeli military chief — Lt. Gen. Herzl Halevi — and even less among the commander of the Israeli air force, Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar. Of all the protests and petitions from reserve officers and soldiers in elite military units, the most worried reserve pilots are the majority of the country’s combat air force. Anyone familiar with the mood among many of these airmen understands how quickly it could undermine the readiness of Israel’s air force to deter its enemies.