Despite Lebanon Rocket Fire, Israel Believes Hezbollah Isn't Seeking Escalation

The Israeli military minimized its response to rockets launched at Haifa suburbs – an achievement for Hamas – though the rockets could not have been fired without Hezbollah’s approval

Yaniv Kubovich
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Palestinian members of Islamic Jihad hold replica rockets at a Hezbollah rally in Beirut on Monday.
Palestinian members of Islamic Jihad hold replica rockets at a Hezbollah rally in Beirut on Monday.Credit: Hassan Anmar / AP
Yaniv Kubovich

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Wednesday’s rocket attacks on Haifa suburbs and the Lower Galilee by Palestinian factions in Lebanon could not have occurred without Hezbollah's consent. It was the third time since the beginning of the fighting in Gaza that rockets were fired at Northern Israel from Lebanon, something made possible due to closer ties between Hezbollah and Palestinian groups operating in Lebanese refugee camps.

Camps in the Sidon, Tyre and Beirut areas have become practically autonomous enclaves within Lebanon. Many of the inhabitants are involved in terrorism against Israel or fight for Hezbollah when the Shi'ite organization needs them.

Since he became leader of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar has made efforts to strengthen ties with these factions, with the aim of coordinating operations when Hamas is at war with Israel.

The rocket attacks could not have occurred, however, without Hezbollah’s consent. In addition, Hezbollah was behind the operation over the last several days to bring buses of Palestinians from the camps to Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to confront Israeli troops. In one such incident last Friday, a 21-year-old Lebanese man was shot and killed. Hezbollah claimed he was a member of the organization.

These same Palestinian factions were responsible for firing four rockets on Wednesday and six on Monday from Lebanese territory. Hezbollah was quick to deny it was behind the attacks, but the fact is that no one in Lebanon can operate against Israel – let alone launch rockets – without the organization’s support, or at least permission.

Another incident occurred Wednesday when a drone approached Israel’s border in the Beit Shean Valley area. Last Friday, three rockets were fired from Syria, two landing in open areas in the southern Golan Heights and one in Syrian territory.

Israeli defense sources believe that Hezbollah isn’t interested in getting dragged into a war with Israel. The domestic situation in Lebanon continues to be difficult and the Shi'ite organization doesn’t want to risk making the country’s situation even worse.

Nevertheless, the organization continues to support Palestinian groups and the Golan militias, whose aim is to stage discrete attacks against Israel in a show of support for Palestinians in Gaza. At this stage, at least, it doesn’t appear they will do more than that.

Despite their assessment that Hezbollah does not want to fight, Israel’s defense establishment is preparing for the possibility that a border incident could drag Israel into fighting on the northern front.

Meantime, the Israel Defense Forces made do with responding with artillery fire to the rocket attacks from Lebanon. The response wasn’t intended to harm those behind the attack but rather to send them a message that Israel won’t permit further ones.

The response was measured with the goal of containing any possible fallout and avoiding an escalation. Nevertheless, defense officials are closely examining the aims of Palestinian groups and Golan militias going forward. The fact that Hezbollah enables them to operate in Lebanon, including staging rocket attacks, has led Israeli intelligence officials to believe the organization may be willing to risk escalation for the sake of demonstrating solidarity with Hamas’ cause.

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