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Hizbollah Attacks – Nasrallah’s Strategy

09 August 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

The Islamic fundamentalist terror organization Hizbollah has fired anti-aircraft shells across Israel’s northern border on dozens of occasions claiming the Israel air force is violating Lebanese airspace.  Most of the time Israeli aircraft are nowhere to be found.  This past week the shelling has intensified.

There are three reasons for the Hizbollah activism at present.  The first is to undermine even the slightest possibility of the Palestinian ‘hudna’ becoming a western style cease-fire and leading to actual conflict resolution.  Although only an ember of hope, Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah wants to stamp out any peace possibilities before they begin.  Secondly, despite not releasing information concerning Israelis in captivity they do want a prisoner exchange since Israel is holding quite a few of their men.  Thirdly, August is a major tourist month in Israel, with the north as a special attraction.  Many residents in the Galilee look forward to July-August to provide a major chunk of their yearly income.  With the recent budget cuts the northern periphery is super sensitive to economic loss.  The shellings and threats of abduction of soldiers and kidnapping of civilians have chased many away from a Galilean vacation.

Political leaders from the border communities are demanding IDF action to silence the Hizbollah.  But to do so will drag in the Syrians and evolve into a further blow to the Israeli economy, not just as a result of attacks across the frontier but if such an action should necessitate a partial military mobilization.  The Hizbollah, with 10,000 long- range missiles reaching Haifa and beyond knows the limitations facing Israel’s leaders.  Just today one Israeli was killed and four injured and so far there is no military response. 

In any conflict Israel must win quickly and decisively, something the US and especially the European Union do not see as being in their interests.  This would involve massive pre-emptive strikes against the Hizbollah and quite possibly an air initiative against certain Syrian targets.  The Arab world would see the US and Israel as solidly on the same side, an image President Bush does not want to project since he wants Washington viewed as an honest broker in the Mideast.  Such an Israeli action might also bring about a sudden intensification (as opposed to a gradual one) of Arab/Islamic activities against the American – British occupation of Iraq.

Nasrallah is acutely aware of the upper hand he holds in the present tactical standoff.  One can expect him to escalate the conflict until he elicits an Israeli response. He hopes such a step will unite Arab and especially Islamic forces in all battles against Israel and the West.  The Hizbollah is gaining control over a very important trip wire and will direct their activities at either weakening Israel step by step or forcing Jerusalem into a war with victory forbidden by the West.

Israel will have to respond sooner or later and just hope it does not ignite a full-scale conflagration.