Israel avoided to officially admit its attack on Hezbollah fighters in the Syrian Quneitra region near the border with Occupied Territories.
Yahya Dbouk - Al-Akhbar
Israel avoided to officially admit its attack on Hezbollah fighters in the Syrian Quneitra region near the border with Occupied Territories. However, it left a margin for its mass media to express what it didn't dare to confess to.
Political and military leadership in Israel surprised its settlers who expressed fear and concerns of the confrontation with Hezbollah. The attack was contrary to expectations, whether regarding the target, the place or the way adopted.
Hebrew media coverage was noticeable, and reflected the high level of tension and anxiety of what would come next.
According to several military analysts and reporters, Israeli army assessment states that Hezbollah response is definitely to come, and that difficult days of unprecedented tension, anxiety and alert await the army. However, the response wouldn't be immediate.
This assessment has been enforced by the first statement Hezbollah issued regarding the attack. It made clear for the Israelis that the Resistance will not overcome the attack without an equal response. This caused Israel to send a message of deterrence through a high-rank military source who "advised" Hezbollah to refrain from provocation.
Hebrew media outlets reported panic and anxiety prevailing among settlers in the Golan and the Galilee, out of fear of the response and its implications. The reports forced the military command to broadcast a message to reassure that Hezbollah response will not be immediate, and to ask settlers not to open shelters, but to wait instructions from Israeli security officers, who were ordered in turn not to leave settlements and to wait for receiving instructions from higher commands.
In an interview with the Israeli radio, Security Minister Moshe Ya'alon refrained to comment on what was circulated by media. "I don't want to touch on this issue." Even though, he addressed Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, saying: "two days before, we heard Nasrallah saying that his elements are not present in the Golan, can he explain to us what is going on?"
No official response has yet been available, except what the israeli army spokesman had stated as he refused to answer a question regarding the attack but without denying it: "We do not comment on western reports."
In his "message of deterrence," as described by Hebrew media outlets, a senior Israeli military source warned Hezbollah of provoking Israel and of trying to respond, stating that Hezbollah "will expose himself to danger if he tries to target armless Israelis," as if he is calling for targeting the Israeli army only and not settlers. He also warned of firing rockets at settlements which will force Israel to respond harshly.
"Hezbollah knows that, and we advise him to think carefully before performing an action of this kind," he said.
Moreover, Hebrew media coverage was noticeable. Key news bulletins commenced reports by commenting on the attack, as reporters and correspondents were estimating the time and place of Hezbollah response, while "hoping" - according to Alon Ben David, Channel 10 correspondent for military affairs - that the response wouldn't be significant so as not to lead to a wide confrontation.
Analyses emphasized on the names of Hezbollah martyrs, that were reported by Arab media outlets before the official abituary. Israeli assessments that pervaded the live broadcast studios were based upon these analyses. Most of the names were untrue and reflected the level of confusion and miscalculation.
Correspondent of Channel -1 wondered about the next days and the time and place of Hezbollah response, noting that Israel is trying to draw a red line for Hezbollah and put him in a dilemma of the response and the non-response.
"However, I know without hesitation that the response will come. But will it be on the borders with Syria or inside Shabaa Farms in Lebanon, i.e. the region that has been agreed upon implicitly as a part of the rules of the game? But the key question is: Will the response be wide and unprecedented with the risk of a war outbreak?" he asked.
For his part, Ben David pointed out that "Israel allowed itself to operate in Syria in the past, but not in that way. This is the first time it targets a Hezbollah convoy several kilometers apart from borders with Israel. True the attack claimed Jihad Moughneih, but the main target was Abu Ali Tabtabaei (...), the man who builds Hezbollah offensive force and trains the party's men to invade the Galilee and occupy the settlements."
"There is talk within the army about Hezbollah response. Will he respond in Shabaa Farms since his response is expected following the attack?" he asked, adding that "the question that occupies every Israeli in that moment is how Nasrallah will respond to the attack, and how will he respond to the murder of this figure (Tabtabaei) who robbed the Israeli army of sleep."
For his part, the Channel 2's military analyst, Ronny Daniel, wondered whether Hezbollah is able to contain such a harsh blow in the Golan. He pointed out that the party's statement indicated that will not control himself and will look for a response. This explains the actions taken by the army immediately after the attack by announcing alert among its units, amid expectations that the military will have a long series of cautious activities along the borders in the coming period.
The channel noted that north settlers, including the Golan and the Galilee, expressed special fears of potential response of Hezbollah.
"True they didn't open shelters, but there is a state of preparedness and anticipation in the settlements. Hearing Nasrallah's talk in the past week about the rockets he now possesses is enough," it said.
Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper website quoted a Western intelligence source as saying that martyr Jihad Moughnieh was heading "wide and deep terrorist infrastructure and previously worked against Israel in the Golan Heights," adding that Moughneih planned for operations against Israel, including firing rockets, cross-border infiltrations, planting explosive devices and firing anti-tank missiles against units and soldiers of the Israeli army.
Translated by E. al-Rihani