Israeli Army Braces for Hezbollah Response to Operative's Killing in Syria

Roads near border to be closed, troops sent north in preparation for possible attack by Lebanese group, which blamed Israel for strike near Damascus

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Israeli soldiers by their vehicles near the northern town of Rihaniya, near the border with Lebanon, July 24, 2020.
Israeli soldiers by their vehicles near the northern town of Rihaniya, near the border with Lebanon, July 24, 2020.Credit: JALAA MAREY / AFP
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

The Israeli military assessments increasingly expect that Hezbollah is preparing to retaliate for the killing of one of its operatives in Syria in the near future following a strike near Damascus that the group attributed to Israel.

The military has been preparing for this possibility, and following a situation assessment by the chief of staff and the head of the military's Central Command has decided to take a number of steps to up preparedness. On Friday night, roads along the Lebanese border will be shut to all non-military vehicles beginning at 8 P.M. Troops have also been sent to the north to bolster the military presence in communities next to the border.

Intelligence and Air Force units were also instructed to increase preparedness. In a number of towns in the north, roads that pass through exposed areas will be closed and alternate routes will be made available. The military has also decided to reduce the number of troops and equipment at the front lines and erect more effective defenses in case of a security event. 

Earlier this week, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Israel attacked by pro-Iranian militia targets on Monday, and a Syrian military source told Reuters that at least seven soldiers were wounded and that the strike caused heavy damage.

Hezbollah-aligned media later reported that the strike killed a fighter from the Lebanese Shi'ite militia who hailed from 'Itit in southern Lebanon.

Israeli soldiers man a check-point on a road near the northern town of Rihaniya, near the border with Lebanon, on July 24, 2020. Credit: JALAA MAREY / AFP

After the strike Monday, Syria's official news agency reported that its air defenses in Damascus were activated against "enemy targets" in the skies over the capitol.

On Friday, an explosion along the Syrian-Israeli border caused damage to a building and a car in the Golan Heights town of Majdal Shams.

The army believes that the blast on Friday was caused by an unsuccessful attempt by Syrian forces to intercept an Israeli drone with an anti-aircraft weapon. However, the army is not ruling out the possibility of intentional rocket fire. Both the army and the political echelon view the event as a serious infringement that Syria is responsible for.

A preliminary situation assessment carried out by Israeli intelligence indicates that it is like that the explosion was not necessarily a response by Hezbollah for the fighter killed in Syria earlier this week, and therefore there is a high probability that Hezbollah will respond in the short term.

As with previous incidents, Israel sent a message to Lebanon warning the country that they would be held accountable for any attack on Israel 

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