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Latest News – 27 August

Updates from Israel and the Jewish World
compiled by Dr Ron Wiseman

Politicians claim West Bank bombers caught, but Shin Bet says probe ongoing

Two top politicians on Monday said security forces had apprehended the terrorists behind Friday’s deadly bombing attack in the central West Bank, prompting an unusual statement from the Shin Bet security service denying the claim.

Israel has been searching since Friday for the culprits behind the bombing in which a 17-year-old girl was killed and her father and brother were seriously wounded.

Former defense minister Avigdor Liberman posted the information on Twitter, before deleting his tweet as it violated a gag order.

“Congratulations to security forces and IDF soldiers who caught the vile terrorists who murdered Rina Shnerb — may her memory be blessed — and injured her father, Rabbi Eitan, and her brother, Dvir,” he wrote.

A Liberman spokesperson later took responsibility for the glitch, telling Channel 13 news that she had been incorrectly informed that the announcement had been cleared by the censor for release, and had passed it along to the MK.

Yamina party head and former justice minister Ayelet Shaked also tweeted that “we heard about the capture of the murderers while I was meeting [Rina’s mother] Shira Shnerb and her family.”

In a rare move, the Shin Bet contradicted the former ministers’ claims, saying the search effort was still underway.

“The statements regarding the capture of the terrorists who committed the attack in Dolev do not express the opinion of the Shin Bet nor did they receive approval from the Shin Bet, which is leading the investigation,” the security service said.

“The investigation into the terror attack is in full swing, and [people] must wait until it is completed, and for the official and certified statements regarding the results.”

At approximately 10 a.m. Friday the explosive device was detonated at the natural spring, known as Ein Bubin, near the Dolev settlement northwest of Ramallah, as three members of the Shnerb family from the central Israeli town of Lod were visiting.

Rina Shnerb was pronounced dead at the scene. Her father, Eitan, a rabbi in Lod, and her brother Dvir, 19, were taken by military helicopter to a Jerusalem hospital with serious injuries. Their condition improved through the weekend and they were set to be moved out of intensive care, a doctor told media Sunday.

Police sappers determined that the bomb — an improvised explosive device — had been planted earlier at the spring and was triggered remotely when the family approached it.

The Israel Defense Forces, Shin Bet security service and Israel Police launched a manhunt to find the bombers, setting up roadblocks, collecting surveillance camera footage and detaining suspects.

Palestinian media reported that multiple people were arrested in the Ramallah area in the predawn hours of Monday morning, including two brothers — Aysar and Talat Marouf — from the village of Ein Qiniya, next to Dolev. A third Marouf brother had reportedly been arrested on Friday after the attack as part of the manhunt.

On Sunday, the IDF also seized a car matching the description of a getaway vehicle from the Dolev attack.

Rina Shnerb’s funeral was held in her hometown of Lod on Friday afternoon. She was remembered by friends as a “happy and sweet girl, pleasing and warm with good energy. The highest quality and sweetest girl there is.”

Israeli military officials warned in the weeks preceding the attack of an increase in terrorist activities and violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the lead-up to next month’s Israeli elections.

The previous Friday, a Palestinian terrorist rammed his car into two Israeli teenage siblings, critically injuring one of them, outside the Elazar settlement in the central West Bank, just south of Jerusalem. The car rolled over after the terror attack, and when the assailant tried to emerge from it, he was shot dead by an off-duty police officer who was driving behind him.

A week before that, an Israeli yeshiva student, Dvir Sorek, was found stabbed to death outside the settlement of Migdal Oz. Israeli security forces tracked down the suspected killers in approximately 48 hours, arresting Palestinian cousins, Nasir Asafra, 24, and Qassem Asafra, 30, from the village of Beit Kahil in the southern West Bank. . (the Times of Israel)

Army disarms IED on West Bank highway days after deadly terror bombing

Israeli security forces on Monday found and disarmed a small improvised explosive device that had been planted along a northern West Bank highway, the army said.

The foiled roadside bombing came days after an IED that had been planted next to a natural spring in the central West Bank was triggered by terrorists as an Israeli family visited the site, killing a teen girl and seriously injuring her father and brother.

On Monday afternoon, a military tracker spotted a suspicious object along the Route 555 highway near Nablus, between the Itamar and Elon Moreh settlements. The highway was closed to traffic, and police sappers were called in to investigate, the Israel Defense Forces said.

Upon inspection, the sappers determined that the object was an IED and disarmed it.

“Following the neutralization, which was carried out with a robot, it was indeed verified that this was an improvised explosive device that was made out of a fire extinguisher,” police said.

The relatively small device did not appear to be of the same variety as the larger bomb used in last week’s attack.

The Israel Defense Forces, Shin Bet security service and Israel Police have been searching for the bombers since the Friday attack, setting up roadblocks, collecting surveillance camera footage and detaining suspects.

At approximately 10 a.m. Friday, the explosive device was detonated at the natural spring, known as Ein Bubin, near the Dolev settlement northwest of Ramallah, as three members of the Shnerb family from the central Israeli town of Lod were visiting.

Rina Shnerb was pronounced dead at the scene. Her father, Eitan, a rabbi in Lod, and her brother Dvir, 19, were taken by military helicopter to a Jerusalem hospital with serious injuries. Their condition improved through the weekend and they were set to be moved out of intensive care, a doctor told media Sunday.

Police sappers determined that the bomb had been planted earlier at the spring and was triggered remotely when the family approached it.

Palestinians reported Monday that troops had raided several towns near Ramallah as part of the manhunt, hours after two top Israeli politicians said security forces had apprehended the terrorists behind the bombing, prompting an unusual statement from the Shin Bet security service denying the claim.

“The statements regarding the capture of the terrorists who committed the attack in Dolev do not express the opinion of the Shin Bet nor did they receive approval from the Shin Bet, which is leading the investigation,” the security service said.

“The investigation into the terror attack is in full swing, and [people] must wait until it is completed, and for the official and certified statements regarding the results.” (the Times of Israel)

PM Netanyahu Holds Security Tour in the North and Assessment of the Situation with IDF Chief-of-Staff, GOC Northern Command

Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, held a security tour of the north and an assessment of the situation with IDF Chief-of-Staff Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, GOC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Amir Baram and other senior officers.

Prime Minister and Defense Minister Netanyahu:

“‘If someone rises up to kill you, kill him first.’ In a complicated operation by the security establishment, we revealed that Iran’s Quds Force dispatched a special unit of Shi’ite militants to Syria in order to kill Israelis on the Golan Heights with explosives-laden UAVs.

I would like to emphasize: This was an initiative of Iran, under the command of Iran, at the behest of Iran.

In a daring decision, and in a perfect IDF operational and intelligence effort, we pre-empted them and thwarted this attack; we prevented serious attacks. Henceforth we will expose any attempt by Iran to attack us and any Iranian effort to hide behind this or that excuse.

I would like to stress that we will not tolerate aggression against Israel from any country in the region. Any country that allows its territory to be used for aggression against Israel will face the consequences, and I repeat: The country will face the consequences.” (PMO)

Amid tensions on five fronts, Netanyahu invites Gantz for security briefing

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayahu’s main political rival, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, was invited to a security briefing following recent events on five different fronts – Gaza, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Iraq.

On account of the the absence of an opposition chairman for the last four months, Gantz was invited to the Prime Minister’s Office by Netanyhahu’s military secretary, Avi Blut, and the head of the National Security Council, Meir Ben Shabbat.

Netanyahu was absent from the debriefing.

Gantz’s invitation to the briefing was unusual. The former IDF chief of staff is not the official head of the current opposition, but in light of recent security events, Netanyahu thought Gantz, as the head of the largest party outside the government, should attend the meeting.

Former Labor faction leader Shelly Yachimovich was the head of the opposition, but has since resigned from political life.

As a result, for the last four months, there has been no official head of opposition in Israel, as Netanyahu failed to put together a coalition and therefore no head of opposition was elected.

Blue and White declined Monday give any details of the briefing.

“Gantz doesn’t discuss security meetings, and certainly not their content,” the party said.

Gantz on Sunday condemned Qatari aid money distributed in Gaza, in light of a rocket strike from Gaza on the southern city of Sderot.

“The money flows but the caravan moves on,” he said.

“Netanyahu, go down south and look the kids who can’t sleep at night in the eye. Our deterrence is gone, but we will bring it back on September 17.” (Ynet News)

Israel alarmed by possible Trump-Rouhani talks, fears he’ll let Iran off hook

Israel is deeply worried by US President Donald Trump’s declared readiness in principle to meet in the near future with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, top ministers were quoted saying on Monday evening. The fear is that the US president will open a dialogue with Iran similar to the ongoing one he has with North Korea, taking pressure off Tehran.

To say that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is uncomfortable with the US president’s newly open-minded stance on Iran “is the understatement of the millennium,” Israel’s Channel 13 reported, quoting what it said were three senior cabinet ministers expressing profound concern that just as Trump has “gotten nowhere” with North Korea, while relieving the economic pressure on Pyongyang, the same would now happen with Iran.

“We have no interest in a negotiations between the United States and Iran,” the TV report quoted one minister saying, “but our capacity to influence and confront Trump is extremely limited.” This, the report went on, was because Trump has “bear-hugged” Netanyahu so tightly that going out against him is deemed impossible.

Netanyahu has been a strident opponent of the P5+1 countries’ 2015 deal with Iran on its rogue nuclear program, arguing that Tehran is intent on attaining a nuclear weapons arsenal, has lied to the world about its plans, and that the 2015 accord actually paves the way to an Iranian bomb. Trump has hitherto adopted a similar stance, and pulled the US out of the accord last year.

Trump declared Monday at the G7 talks in Biarritz, at a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, that he would “certainly agree” to meet Rouhani soon under the “correct circumstances,” and that there was a “really good chance” this would happen.

This found an echo in Tehran, where Rouhani said more vaguely that he would not miss an opportunity to meet with someone who could help “the interests of the state” and solve some of its difficulties.

The dramatic change in tone from Washington came as Israel is grappling with soaring tensions relating to Iran, as underlined in a short video clip released by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday evening in which he fumed that “Iran is acting in a broad front to produce murderous terror attacks against Israel.”

Netanyahu vowed that “Israel will continue to defend its security by any means necessary,” and urged “the international community to act immediately to ensure Iran stops these attacks.”

On Saturday night, Israel preempted what it said was an Iranian plot to send several “killer drones” into Israel from Syria to attack military and civilian targets, and Israel has also allegedly targeted Iranian-linked sites in Iraq and Lebanon in recent days, drawing protests from political leaders in those countries and threats of revenge from the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. The head of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, Qassem Soleimani, alleged by Israel to have personally overseen the drone plot, warned Sunday that Israel’s military strikes “will surely be the last steps of the Zionist regime.”

Israel is also grappling with rocket fire from Gaza and ongoing border riots, both orchestrated by the Iranian-backed Hamas and Islamic State terror groups.

Trump’s new conciliatory tone on Iran deals “a critical blow to Netanyahu’s narrative that he and Trump are completely in step on Iran,” Israel’s Channel 12 news noted Monday night, but added that the prime minister could hardly condemn his good friend. It also reported, however, that there was “some interest at the top” of the Israeli political hierarchy in having Trump start renegotiating terms, including on the nuclear deal, with Iran now rather than run the risk of a Democratic presidential victory in 2020 and a subsequent much worse arrangement with Tehran.

The Israeli cabinet has had several discussions about the prospect of US-Iran negotiations, Channel 13 reported, with ministers immensely concerned by the prospect.

It quoted an unnamed Israeli official saying that, “Our great fortune was that, until now, the Iranians refused to speak to Trump.” Macron’s invitation to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the G7 summit, and Trump’s readiness to meet with Rouhani, marks “the very moment Israel has worried about,” it said.

In his remarks in Biarritz, Macron said he was sure that Rouhani would respond positively to an offer of talks from Trump. The US president, for his part, praised Rouhani, saying, “I don’t know the gentleman. I’ll tell you one thing: he’s a great negotiator. I think he’s going to want to meet.”

Trump also indicated he might be open to Iran being offered “a short-term line of credit or loan” to help its economy. “We’re talking about a letter of credit,” he specified. “It would be from numerous countries.” Tehran “may need some money to get over a very rough patch” caused by US economic sanctions, he explained.

Noting that this was the same US president who had castigated then-president Barack Obama for making a “terrible” nuclear deal with Iran and paying Tehran vast sums of money, Channel 13 speculated that a Trump-Rouhani meeting could come as soon as next month, when the two leaders attend the annual UN General Assembly sessions.

It said Israel was pinning its hopes on Trump being deflected from his new course by National Security Adviser John Bolton. Bolton, it said, is “trying to prevent” the new Trump openness to Iran, “and he’s losing.”

Macron and other G-7 leaders opposed Trump’s decision last year to pull the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal and to impose new sanctions. They have been trying to salvage the treaty ever since. Netanyahu, by contrast, hailed Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal, and has firmly backed Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure” on Tehran over its nuclear program. (the Times of Israel)

Forest fires across Israel, Firefighting planes deployed

Several firefighting teams across Israel have been working since Monday afternoon to extinguish three forest fires in Beit Shemesh, Mt. Yaaran and Kfar Mash’had.

Houses in Beit Shemesh were been evacuated following a forest fire raging in the city’s Geffen Park, which has now been deemed contained. Ten firefighting teams and two firefighting planes were sent to the area. Police have evacuated nearby residents from their homes as a precautionary measure, fearing smoke inhalation, though no property damage is expected. Roads that had been blocked off have been reopened and residents have been told that it is safe to return to their homes.

The wildfire in the Mt. Yaaran hiking path, near Route 375, is not yet under control. Eleven firefighting teams and six firefighting planes have been deployed to help extinguish the flames.

Forest fires across Israel, Firefighting planes deployed

The wildfire in the village of Kfar Mash’had has been contained, and is most likely the result of dry thorns catching fire. Eight firefighting teams and two firefighting planes were sent to the area. No injuries or casualties have been reported. As a precautionary measure, police and firefighters evacuated 15 houses near the wildfire.

The cause for the Beit Shemesh and Mt. Yaaran wildfires is as of yet unknown. (Jerusalem Post)

Israel’s campaign to disrupt the Iranian war machine in Syria continues

Israeli Minister Tzachi Hanegbi: There is a “deep struggle” underway in Iran over the country’s ongoing efforts to entrench itself in Syria, and Israel publicized the latest strike to strengthen these voices.

by Yaacov Lappin JNS

The Israeli air strikes that rocked the Syrian village of Aqrabah, southeast of Damascus, on Saturday night are the latest phase in an ongoing shadow war against Iran which has been described by the Israeli defense establishment as an “active defense campaign.”

The strikes destroyed an Iranian cell active in Syria commanded by Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani, which was planning multiple, simultaneous armed drone attacks on northern Israel, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The Quds Force is Iran’s elite overseas operations unit. It has led efforts in recent years to build Iranian bases throughout Syria and turn the country into a new front against Israel. Those efforts have mostly been foiled by preventative Israeli actions, which rely on advanced intelligence-gathering capabilities and precision firepower.

The Quds Force also plays a central role in trafficking large quantities of weapons to Iran’s Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah.

Also on Saturday night, two drones crashed in Hezbollah’s stronghold in Dahiya, southern Beirut. One of the drones exploded, according to media reports, damaging a Hezbollah-owned office. Hezbollah claimed the drones belonged to Israel.

These incidents come days after U.S. officials said Israel was behind an air strike that destroyed an Iranian weapons storage facility in Iraq. That facility was reportedly a base run by the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces Shi’ite militia. The base may have contained precision-guided missiles or other weapons that the Iranians stationed in Iraq temporarily, as part of a longer-term plan to shift them to Syria.

Ultimately, all these recent incidents can be viewed from a single vantage point. That perspective was spelled out clearly by IDF Maj. Gen (ret.) Yaakov Amdiror, former national security adviser to the prime minister of Israel and head of the National Security Council from 2011-2013.

“We are trying to prevent Iran from building an Iranian war machine in Syria,” Amdiror told JNS. “Everything else is a result of this effort.”

Asked whether the latest developments increase the chance of a broader conflict, Amidror said, “Whether it leads to war, no one knows, but this must be taken into consideration and [Israel must] continue with the necessary effort.”

During a conference call with journalists on Sunday, IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus also placed the latest strikes in the larger context.

“The Iranians have tried to attack Israel in February and May in 2018, as well as in January 2019,” said Conricus. “Each time, there is a different ‘excuse’ and ‘reason’ to attack.”

Conricus spelled out the inherently offensive nature of Iran’s actions and the defensive nature of Israel’s.

“I know that Israel and the IDF are fighting from within Israel to defend our civilians and sovereignty. And I know that the Iranians are, on average, 600 to 1,000 km away from their borders,” he said.

“They’re trying to attack Israel. We understand that the Iranians will try to continue to attack. We are ready, and preparing for such operations … We are prepared for a large amount of different scenarios and have the necessary offensive plans to retaliate.”

Conricus provided further details on the Iranian plan Israel foiled on Saturday night, stating that the Quds Force squad had been under Israeli intelligence monitoring for some time.

Senior Iranian operatives flew into Damascus International Airport with their attack drones, he said, before heading out to a secure compound in Aqrabah and linking up with Shi’ite operatives who were waiting for them.

Additionally, in the village, the operatives formed a highly compartmentalized and secretive squad, and prepared for their mission. They lived inside a closed compound that was under the direct control of the Quds Force and contained living quarters as well as a storage structure for drones and explosive materials.

“There was a sentry that guarded the facility so that uninvolved civilians wouldn’t wander in,” said Conricus.

The squad’s pattern of operation was “quite similar to what we have seen in other places in the Middle East,” he added, referring to Iranian drone attacks on Saudi Arabia from Yemen as one example.

“We know these are drones with a similar range and technical depth as the drones used by Iranians in [other locations in] the Middle East … they are highly accurate, and are designed to explode on impact,” he said.

These drones carried several kilograms of explosives each. “We understand their intention was to fly a number of attack drones towards targets located in northern Israel,” said Conricus.

Last Thursday, the IDF spotted four operatives from the squad in the village of Arneh in southern Syria, near Mount Hermon. The Israeli military understood that the suspects were attempting a drone attack, and “took preventative action that led to a temporary thwarting” of the attack, said Conricus.

“They went back, and we understood on Saturday that another attack was imminent, and that is what led to us to attack in Aqrabah, based on intelligence we had available to us,” he added.

Elements within Syria’s Assad regime turned a blind eye to the attack plan while other regime elements actively cooperated with it, according to the IDF, which said that Damascus was “definitely aware of what was happening, allowed it to happen on Syrian soil, and hence it is responsible as well.”

The IDF’s Northern Command is currently at an elevated state of alert, as the military assesses the situation, said Conricus.

In a statement, Maj. Gen. Tamir Heyman, commander of the Military Intelligence Directorate, said shortly after the strike in Syria that “Tonight, thanks to a substantial intelligence effort, an Iranian attack was thwarted and harm to Israel was prevented.

“Iran’s proxies attempted in the past few days to launch killer drones at Israeli territory. An intelligence effort exposed the preparations of the force led by Soleimani, in an Iranian structure near Damascus, and made possible the thwarting of the attack.

“The Quds Force is continuing its efforts to destabilize the region. We are continuing our effort to stop the Quds Force’s attempts to harm Israel and her citizens.”

During an interview with the Kan Bet radio station on Sunday, Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s Regional Cooperation Minister and a member of the Security Cabinet, shed light on what caused Israel to take the unusual step of publicizing this strike.

Stressing that the decision was made with the full approval of the defense establishment, Hanegbi said that inside Iran, a “deep struggle” is underway over the usefulness of Soleimani’s ongoing project to build a war machine in Syria.

“There are forces in Iran that are relatively more realist, and who are pleading with [Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei, [saying], stop giving him [Soleimani] a free hand to do whatever he wants. There is no chance he will succeed. Israel knows and is one step ahead of us. It destroys all of the things we invest so much money in. Let’s focus on Iran, our economy, and let’s stop this adventure,” said Hanegbi.

Making sure that everyone knows another Soleimani-led plot had been foiled will strengthen such voices, said Hanegbi.

His comments echo remarks made by Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, who, speaking on July 2, hours after reported Israeli strikes against Iranian weapons facilities across Syria, said, “I believe that Iran will reach the conclusion that it is just not worth it.”

Nasrallah threatens revenge for Israeli raids, but how and where can he deliver?

Hezbollah leader specified that response will come from Lebanese territory, but even the Shi’ites there want to avoid dragging the country into war

by Avi Issacharoff The Times of Israel

Hassan Nasrallah’s speech on Sunday evening began in relatively moderate tones. The Hezbollah leader opened by praising his audience, at what was a preplanned event marking two years since a major Hezbollah victory over Islamic State, and described the gathering as a first response to Zionist aggression. From Nasrallah’s initial remarks, one might have thought that he had changed his spots, and intended to focus on internal Lebanese issues: He talked about corruption in Lebanon, and on Hezbollah’s achievements in the battles against IS.

But toward the end of his speech, the more familiar Nasrallah appeared — the Nasrallah who has made a profession out of threatening Israel.

Nasrallah swore before all who heard him, and especially before the Shi’ite community, that a Hezbollah response to that latest Zionist aggression would most surely come. He said that two Hezbollah fighters had been killed in the Israeli strikes south of Damascus late Saturday night — when Israel preempted what it says was an Iranian-orchestrated attack on Israeli civilian and military targets by “killer drones” — and specified that his organization would respond from Lebanese territory and not from Syria.

He also referred to the drones that fell in the Dahiya neighborhood of Beirut and claimed this was an Israeli attack on a Hezbollah target — the first attack of its kind, he claimed, since 2006. The era in which Israel bombs Lebanon with impunity was over, he declared.

The fact that Nasrallah went into such specifics leaves no room for doubt that Hezbollah intends to respond to the series of recent strikes in Syria, Lebanon, and possibly even Iraq; a fresh drone strike on Shi’ite militiamen in Iraq was being reported even as he spoke. The question is when, where and how exactly will Hezbollah respond?

It is reasonable to assume that neither Hezbollah nor Iran wishes to prompt all-out war with Israel, but rather to bolster their deterrent capability and require Israel to weigh afresh its policy of attacking targets in Syria and Iraq.

Does that mean Israel can now expect rocket fire from across the northern border. Probably not. It may be that Hezbollah will try to strike an Israeli target via a drone, or open fire at IDF forces as it did after the assassination of the Hezbollah commander Jihad Mughniyeh in January 2015. Another possibility is a “classic” Hezbollah response: the bombing of an Israeli or Jewish target somewhere overseas. Except that Nasrallah specified that the response against Israel would come from Lebanon.

Can he really carry out his threats? It’s hard to say. There is certainly profound motivation to prove to the Shi’ite public, the Lebanese public, and indeed, the Israeli public that his threats are credible.

Yet the situation is not simple for the Hezbollah secretary-general. He well knows that he needs to take particular care right now because nobody in Lebanon wants a war, and that even goes for the Shi’ite community.

This reality was clear on Sunday, which saw criticism within Lebanon of Hezbollah. There is nothing new about this: Many key bodies and communities that are active in the state are unhappy, to put it mildly, with the activities of the Shi’ite organization. Nonetheless, the fact that Hezbollah was criticized within hours of its claims that Israel had attacked its media headquarters in Beirut is significant.

Less than 12 hours after Hezbollah began wailing about the attack and accusing Israel of responsibility, various forces in Lebanon clearly recognized that a Hezbollah response risks pushing the two sides to war. Among those taking aim at Hezbollah was the Lebanese Forces political party, established from the remnants of the famous militia that Bashar Gemayal established in Lebanon in the 1970s during the Lebanese civil war.

Lebanese Forces is affiliated with the country’s Christians and is considered one of the prime opponents of Hezbollah. In a statement Sunday, the party warned against the repercussions of security and military decisions that were being taken against the interests of the state — in other words that Lebanon should not let Hezbollah and Iran determine its future. The party even called on the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri to discuss the significance of decisions taken outside Lebanon’s borders.

Hariri hurried in the immediate aftermath of the latest Israeli and alleged Israeli strikes to adopt Hezbollah’s narrative and condemned the Israeli aggression and the ostensible breach of UN Security Council Resolutions 1701. But several hours later, Hariri telephoned US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the two discussed “ways to calm the situation.”

That is to say that Hariri, and possibly even Lebanese President Michel Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah, would not wish to see a major escalation right now. They certainly would not wish to see Iranian-backed efforts to attack Israel from Lebanese territory.

A Wide Israeli-Iranian Conflict Is Being Waged in the Middle East – Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin (Twitter)
A wide, multi-dimensional (geographic, operational, intelligence, and technological) campaign is being waged in the Middle East, far beyond Israel’s latest strike in Syria to foil an Iranian drone attack.
This is an Israeli-Iranian conflict in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon (and Yemen and Saudi Arabia?) with both significant Russian and American forces present, and their discontent about the events. So far, all remains under the threshold of war, but a consistent escalation control is vital.
Impressive IDF intelligence and air force capabilities were seen in the Syrian strike. High-quality, real-time intelligence along with a precise surgical operation prevented a significant attack on Israel. I would not want to be in Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani’s shoes after yet another operational failure in Syria.
Israel’s decision to take responsibility for the attack in Syria signals a warning to the enemy to avoid further escalation and increases readiness of our forces for an Iranian response.
Maybe a more interesting incident took place in Beirut. Were Iranian drones prevented from taking off from the Beirut area?
The strategy of the two sides appears to be “cooling” the situation down to avoid full-scale conflict. But at the end of the day Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah is an Iranian proxy, and it is possible that Soleimani will use him to settle the score.

The writer is executive director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).