Last month a ‘Grad rocket’ was fired from southern Lebanon into an Israeli open area. Although no group claimed responsibility, Israel quickly took action and launched around 50 strikes into Lebanese territory. The question is, does this moment mark the beginning of a regional war with Israel?
A single rocket was said to have been fired from Southern Lebanon into an open area near the Israeli ‘Kibbutz Matzuva’. No injuries were reported, nor was there any significant damage, yet one thing that concerned Israelis was that neither Israel’s air defense systems, nor its sirens were activated at all. A similar event occurred just days prior, when a rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip.
Hamas, which has been widely blamed for activating its members in southern Lebanon and conducting the rocket fire, has not claimed the attack. This has left analysts puzzled as to who exactly carried out the strike and for what reason. Nevertheless, without conclusive evidence for any of the crucial questions regarding the nature of the rocket fire, Israel carried out around 35 strikes, with artillery, on southern Lebanon during the early hours of Monday morning. After roughly an hour pause, Israel began attacking once again, triggering air raid sirens surrounding the UN peacekeeping mission’s forces.
“UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander @aroldo_lazaro urges calm and restraint in this volatile and ongoing situation,” tweeted UNIFIL following the incident. The Israeli military announced that it was bombarding sites south of Lebanon’s city of Tyre, claiming that it had hit “an infrastructure target,” not specifying exactly what it meant by this and also stating that the rocket launch site in Lebanon had been bombarded.
In total, some Lebanese media sources claimed that around 70 artillery shells had been fired into Southern Lebanon, whilst the Israeli media claimed that number to be around 50. Regardless, this was a clear attempt by Israel to show strength to its own population. The effects of these Israeli shells were in reality little, but certainly did one thing, triggered outrage amongst the Lebanese of the south. Israel claims to have hit the rocket launch site. This is unlikely, however, and even if true, means nothing. Often the unguided rockets — of the kind that was fired — are launched from pickup trucks and can be moved easily.
The fact that Israel had not been able to intercept rockets from Gaza, or even detect some of them at all, days prior, left Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his military looking weak. The Iron Dome air defense system even misfired as many as a dozen missiles, at Hamas air-defense machine gun bullets, last week. This was later admitted after claims emerged of Palestinian factions firing rockets, that Israel claimed it has successfully intercepted. After the Palestinian armed factions stated that no such rockets had been fired and that its machine gun air defense fire was the cause, Israel was forced to admit that its $50,000-$100,000 missiles were fired at inexpensive bullets.
The Israeli strategy was clearly an attempted show of strength, but against whom? They claim it was Palestinian groups in Lebanon, but no such Palestinian militants were targeted nor was Israel capable of proving who even fired the Grad rocket at them.
Last August, following rocket fire into open areas in Israel, which were also attributed to Palestinian factions in southern Lebanon, Israel launched a counter attack of a similar nature to what it did last month. This triggered the strategic firing of 19 rockets by Lebanese Hezbollah, into Israel. Secretary General of Hezbollah, Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, later announced that the first rocket fire since the 2006 war served as a warning. Nasrallah made it clear that Hezbollah did not kill anyone on the Israeli side only due to Israel’s attacks being of the same nature, he also ensured listeners that Hezbollah will respond to the killing of two of its members in due time.
Following the 11-day war in May of last year, which occurred due to repeated Israeli incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque site during the Holy Month of Ramadan, Nasrallah threatened to put together a regional alliance against Israel. Later, Yemen’s Ansarallah and groups belonging to the Iraqi PMU signed on for a plan to draw Israel into a regional war in the event that Jerusalem was attacked once again.
The rocket fire from Southern Lebanon was likely a calculated move, issued as either a warning and/or a means of drawing in an Israeli response. Israel has fallen for the bait, hook, line, and sinker, paving the way for a Hezbollah response. Cyber attacks were also carried out last week against Israeli websites, said to have originated from Iraq, Palestinians from all the territories have responded to Israel’s aggression at al-Aqsa mosque with protests and with rocket fire in the case of Gaza.
The difference between this year and last year’s violence, is that the armed groups in the Gaza Strip are not looking to get dragged into a fight with Israel on their own. The ‘Joint Room of Palestinian Resistance Factions’ is most likely seeking to strategically draw Israel into a larger confrontation, one which will include regional players and that revives the power of the Palestinian cause on the regional scene.