Lebanese Officials: Hezbollah Response to Alleged Israeli Strike Will Be Limited

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A UN vehicle on the border between southern Lebanon and Israel, on Monday.Credit: Reuters

A Hezbollah source told Lebanese reporters on Monday that Sunday's attack on members of the organization on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights was proof of Israeli involvement in the crisis in Syria. He added that the attack, which reportedly killed five members of Hezbollah and five Iranian military men, would have a dramatic effect on the region as far as interests and power struggles are concerned.

However, Lebanese journalist Ali al-Amin, who has close ties to decision-makers in the Shi'ite organization and the Lebanese government, said in an interview on Nazareth's Ashams radio station Monday that Lebanese officials believed Hezbollah would respond, but that at this stage the response would be a measured one since the organization is aware of its limitations due to the ongoing war in Syria.

High-ranking Lebanese officials held consultations Sunday about the possibility of escalation on Israel's northern border with Lebanon if Hezbollah should decide to respond to the assassination of its operatives.

The Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar reported that Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam met Sunday night with Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and with Nabih Berri, leader of the Shi’ite Amal movement. Berri, who is considered to be very close to Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah, is the person through which communications are conducted between the militant group and the Lebanese government.

Salam, Jumblatt and Berri discussed the attack and its implications for Lebanon, and accused Israel of carrying it out.

While former Lebanese President Amine Gemayel said that “the Israeli attack was a crime,” he cautioned that Lebanon must not be brought into another cycle of bloody conflict. Gemayel also hinted that a response that would break the rule of the game and bring Lebanon back to the era of the second Lebanon war would not be appropriate.

Hezbollah sources have not yet confirmed the reports from foreign news agencies that Jihad Mughniyeh, son of the late, high-ranking Hezbollah operative Imad Mughniyeh, was killed in the attack on Sunday together with Iranian officers.

However, the Shi'ite organization reported that several officers and soldiers from among its ranks were killed when Israeli helicopter gunships fired at troops that were patrolling in the town of Mazraat al-Amal near Quneitra.

Journalists in Beirut and southern Lebanon report that there is a feeling that the state of alert has risen among Hezbollah members, and that many of them visited the home of Jihad Mughniyeh’s parents in Dahiyeh, a southern suburb of the capital.

For their part, Lebanese security officials told Reuters that five members of Hezbollah, including a commander, were killed in Sunday's attack. But according to Arab and Lebanese media outlets, six were killed, three of them high-ranking members of Hezbollah: Mohammed Issa, who holds the portfolio for Syria and Iraq; Abu Ali Rida, also known as Abu Ali Tabtabai, commander of a special force that originates in Iran; and Jihad Mughniyeh, Tabtabai’s deputy.

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