Drums of War Beating after Israel Strikes in Syria and Lebanon

(Cairo) – Israel has apparently started a full-scale confrontation, after striking a group of pro-Iran operatives who, it says, planned a drone attack against Israeli targets.

The Israeli air force hit in Syria, yet again, on August 24, to thwart the drone attack which was allegedly planned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force. The sabotaged attack, the Israeli army said, would have included the launch of several explosive drones at targets in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Israeli raid in Syria had left three people dead. According to media reports, the three victims included two members of the Lebanese pro-Iran militia, Hezbollah. On August 25, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah threatened to punish Israel. His comments were fueled by Israeli drone attacks in southern Lebanon a few hours earlier, the first since 2006.

Nasrallah described the Israeli drone attacks in southern Lebanon as “very very dangerous”. “The time when Israel would attack Lebanon and remain safe thereafter is over,” Nasrallah said. Other pro-Iran militias have gone beyond mere verbal threats, especially in the Palestinian Gaza Strip whence three rockets were launched toward Israel in the evening of August 25. Two of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, according to the Israeli army.

The third rocket landed in an open area near a highway in southern Israel, causing a fire, the army said. Although this was the fourth rocket attack from Gaza on Israel in two weeks, the timing of the attack was seen to be linked to the Israeli raid in Syria hours earlier. A delegation of the Gaza-ruling faction Hamas visited Iran in mid-July. Delegation members met a host of senior Iranian officials, including the country’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei. Soon after the visit, analysts expected Hamas to jump into the Iran-Israel-US showdown with the aim of reducing pressure on Tehran.

However, the Hamas adventure will most likely have devastating repercussions. On August 25, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a visit to the Golan Heights and said his country would not tolerate attacks from any country.

“Any country that allows its territory to be used for attacks against Israel will bear the consequences, and I stress, the country will bear the consequences,” Israeli media quoted Netanyahu as saying.

How will Iran react to the Israeli attack in Syria in the coming days is not yet known. Nonetheless, Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani threatened on August 25 to put an end to what he described as Israel’s “crazy” moves. “These crazy operations will undoubtedly by the last by the Zionist regime,” he added.

Inside Israel, the rocket attacks from Gaza and expected future attacks from Lebanon are spreading alarm. The Israeli army has deployed air defenses in northern Israel, even as the authorities have not issued any special safety instructions for local residents. Footage in the aftermath of the Gaza rocket attacks showed ordinary Israelis scrambling for safety and a major alarm among women and children. Firefighters were also seen trying to put out the fire caused by one of the rockets in southern Israel.

Israeli fighter jets were also seen striking targets in northern Gaza in the early hours of August 26. According to Palestinian media reports, a site affiliated to Hamas was targeted by the Israeli raid. No human casualties were reported by the Israeli attack, but the residents of Gaza, which has been blockaded by Israel since 2006, believe they are in for tough times in the coming days.