Northern escalation / Syria: a possible third front
Two weeks after the start of the IDF's extensive operation in the Gaza Strip, Hezbollah opened a second front on the northern border. The second front, which could expand into Israel, started just as the first did - with the abduction of soldiers from inside Israel and the deaths of others.
Israel faces the danger of a third front if Syria steps in to assist Hezbollah. Strategically, Israel faces an extreme foursome: Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. Two extremist Islamic organizations considered terror organizations, and two states Washington names in the Axis of Evil.
Israel has no choice but to hold Lebanon responsible for what happens in its borders and for what comes out of it. Lebanon will likely wail as Israel strikes inside its territory and hits its infrastructure, but the Lebanese government must see itself as responsible for what Hezbollah does out of Lebanon. Particularly since Lebanon essentially rejected UN resolution 1559, which called for disarming the militia. Hamas and Hezbollah made the rules of the game with the ongoing rocket fire into Israel and the abduction of Israeli soldiers. If Israel loses in handling this, its strategic and military standing in the region will change and its deterrence of guerrilla warfare and high-trajectory weapons will be undermined.
From the moment the ground incursion into Gaza started, it was possible Hezbollah would try to help Hamas by attacking on the Lebanese border. This option was rejected by most military analysts. No unusual alert was evident.
In addition to the desire to help Hamas, Hezbollah has its own grudge to bear with Israel. On May 28, Hezbollah taunted Israel with a Katyusha barrage at an IDF base on Mt. Meron. In response, Israel immediately hit a number of Hezbollah positions along the border. It was clear that Hezbollah, whose leader has often declared his organization would abduct Israelis, was waiting for the right moment, which came yesterday. There is no need for (res.) Major General Giora Eiland to investigate the event in the north as he did the one in the south. It is better to focus on upcoming developments and the question of how to conduct a war on two and maybe three fronts. Hopefully Israel's leaders will give up the harsh words and exaggerated threats we have seen in the past two weeks.
Israel's options now are aggression on two fronts. Israeli would best act cautiously in order not to open a third front with Syria, unless Damascus taunts Israel.
Clearly Israel will strike Lebanese infrastructure related to Hezbollah and may expand its targets in its wrath. For years, Israel neglected the rocket system Hezbollah built in Lebanon with Iranian and Syrian help. It took no preventative measures against the convoys and storehouses of weaponry. We thought they would rust and now they are directed at Israel. There is also an absurd situation where we ignored Hezbollah positions adjacent to the border and to our Galilee communities. Some of those positions were once IDF outposts.
Israel must not allow Hezbollah to return to border positions. This is a clearcut defensive tactic and, in any case, Hezbollah is taking the offensive against Israel. Israel's operation in Gaza is not enough.
The Gaza front will become secondary if the fighting in the north expands. If Israel wants even partial international support, it must avoid causing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. After yesterday's events on the northern border, international efforts to mediate on the matter of the abductees and the prisoners will increase and address additional issues. In which case, Israel will have little time for a broad military operation.