|Graphic Detaiing Recent Escalation Courtesy Of Ynet|
Over the past few weeks hostilities have escalated between Israel and Hezbollah. Each side had their objectives and goals based on their respective assessments of each other and each other's capabilities. Right now the hostilities have peaked to a point where they each need to decide if this has gone far enough. In the past each side has walked along red lines of unwritten rules. They both know how far they can go before it turns into a full scale war.
Recent escalations started on January 18th when the IDF struck a Hezbollah convoy in Syria that killed a top Hezbollah commander as well as an Iranian commander. Through unnamed sources the Israeli security establishment claimed there was an imminent attack emanating from this convoy and they took action to prevent an attack on the State of Israel. They also claimed that they had no knowledge of there being an Iranian commander in the convoy.
There has been no evidence presented to the public this far to prove that an imminent attack was coming. At the same time there are questions left for Hezbollah about why would there be a high level group of commanders in the Golan heights when it is controlled by Syrian opposition forces. There is no good answer to that question so it is tough to determine exactly what was going on at that time. There is no legitimate reason for Hezbollah or Iranian commanders to be near Israeli territory in Syrian Rebel held territory.
This gave Israel the ability to take a shot at Hezbollah and eliminate a threat as well as high ranking officials in one strike. It also was the perfect location being in Syria where Hezbollah could not claim that they were defending Lebanon and that Israel was attacking Lebanese territory.
Yesterday afternoon two 107MM rockets were fired at the northern Golan heights into Israeli territory striking an Israeli home. The IDF responded immediately by firing artillery at Syrian Army outposts recording direct hits and injuring a number of Syrian soldiers. This was bad move by Hezbollah because they knew what the Israeli response would be and it put the lives of Syrian soldiers at risk that had nothing to do with this current escalation. Overnight the Israeli Air Force retaliated further by striking targets in Syria once again making tensions rise even higher.
This morning Hezbollah ambushes Israeli soldiers patrolling the Lebanon Israel border. They fired two anti tank missiles at the patrol killing 4 Israeli soldier and wounding 7 others. Hezbollah immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. The IDF returned fire with artillery directed at the area of the missiles. Shortly after Hezbollah began launching mortars at Israeli forces causing the Israeli Air Force to bomb Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon.
Now both sides have to decide if this is the end or do They want to escalate this into a full blown war. I don't think either side wants a war right now. Hezbollah has their hands full in Syria and Iran does not want Hezbollah engaging in a war with Israel right now. A war at this time would see Israel destroying the stock piles of missiles and rockets that Iran has supplied to them. This armament is meant for the possibility of war between Israel and Iran and as a deterrent against Israeli aggression on Iran. The time is not right for Iran or Hezbollah to get into an all out fight with Israel, there are much more important things at stake right now. As for Israel they have nothing to gain by engaging in an overt war with Hezbollah at this time. For the past 4 years they've gathered intelligence and struck targets in Syria with little to no repercussions under the fog of war. There would be no strategic benefit to entering an open war right now.
Did either side gain anything from this round of violence? I believe Hezbollah made a point that they are able to and will strike Israel if provoked. Hezbollah wanted to make it clear that even though they are busy in Syria they're not too distracted to confront their old for and they will not be pushed around without a response.
Israel made it clear that they will take the risk and pursue targets of opportunity if they present themselves in Syria. Most importantly for Israel they showed that attempting to inflame the Golan border will come at a heavy price to both Hezbollah and the Syrian government. I think this point proved effective when Hezbollah decided to launch an attack from Lebanon today rather than the Golan Heights as they had previously threatened to do. Hezbollah using the Golan as a base to launch attacks has proven to be a terrible strategy. Not only will Hezbollah suffer extreme consequences for doing so but it also comes at a cost to the Syrian army who can not afford to open and additional front nor can they afford to take further losses in manpower or equipment.