Two Israeli soldiers were killed Wednesday afternoon near the Lebanon border after their vehicle was hit by an anti-tank missile. At least seven other IDF troops were injured during the attack at Mt. Dov, making it the most violent confrontation between Hezbollah and Israel since the summer 2006 war.
Israel’s military launched retaliatory artillery and airstrikes against Hezbollah operation centers near the border. A Spanish peacekeeper from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed in the crossfire, according to local media.
An IDF soldier rides an armored military ambulance near Israel’s border with Lebanon on January 28, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Wednesday’s attack came a day after Hezbollah launched rockets at an Israeli military position in the Golan Heights from Syria. The IDF subsequently bombed a Syrian army installation in Quneitra province, maintaining a long standing policy of holding Damascus responsible for violence emanating from its territory.
Hezbollah’s recent escalation follows an Israeli airstrike in Syria on January 18th that killed two Hezbollah commanders, an Iranian General, and nine other fighters. Jerusalem declined to comment on the strike, but an unnamed Israeli official told reporters that the IDF targeted terrorists who were planning attacks on the Jewish State.
To heighten preparedness, Israel reportedly deployed at least two Iron Dome batteries in the North and increased air patrols near the border early last week. The government also fast-tracked the adoption of a new C4i system, which will enable military and civilian emergency responders to communicate more effectively. So far there have been no military reservists called up, suggesting a large scale ground intervention may not be imminent.
Hezbollah has used almost a decade of relative calm between Israel and Lebanon to bolster its military capabilities near the border. Before the Syrian civil war, the terrorist organization had deployed an estimated 65,000 rockets in Southern Lebanon with the help of Iran. Some long range rockets have the capability of hitting almost anywhere in Israel, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. With more long range missiles, a better equipped UAV program, and funding from Iran, Hezbollah’s destructive capacity far exceeds the enemies Israel has faced in recent wars.
The open question is whether, with 5,000 fighters deployed in Syria sustaining more than 500 fatalities and generating increasing controversy among Lebanese factions, Hezbollah is looking for a fight.