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All Quiet In The Galilee?

With all the turmoil going on in the Middle East, one area that has been curiously quiet has been the Israeli-Lebanese border. In fact, it has been so quiet there that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) temporarily deactivated its anti-missile early warning system.  Monday night, however, the silence was broken by two Katyusha rockets. The New York Times reports:

The United Nations peace keeping force in Lebanon called for “maximum restraint” on Tuesday after an exchange of fire over the Israel-Lebanon border overnight.

Rockets fired from southern Lebanon struck northern Israel for the first time since 2009, and the Israeli military responded with artillery shells fired at the area where the rockets were launched.

According to the NYT, Hezbollah has denied responsibility for the rocket fire. Also, Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported that UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping agency stationed in southern Lebanon, does not consider the rocket fire to be a breach of the UN-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah that ended the 2006 summer war.

While Hezbollah does have a tight grip over southern Lebanon and UNIFIL has proven itself to be rather ineffective in subduing Hezbollah network of bunkers and rearming efforts (which include long-range SCUD missiles), it does appear that this is an isolated incident that was most likely perpetrated by a fringe group. But as Syria slips closer to civil war, watch for more trouble in Lebanon and Israel.

Hezbollah has a vital interest in the survival of a friendly government in Damascus that backs it financially and supports Iranian efforts to keep the Lebanese Shi’a militia funded and armed.  Part of what drives the Sunni Arab anger at Syria is a struggle for control in Lebanon, where Hezbollah and its allies have sharply reduced the influence of Sunni families and groups close to leading Saudis.

As Iran, Syria and Hezbollah develop survival strategies, they will use every weapon and tactic that come to hand; certainly a Syrian government that has not been deterred from massacring, according to a report commissioned by the UN, hundreds of its own children will not worry about Israeli or Lebanese casualties.

That a desperate Syrian regime might launch a proxy war with Israel in the hope of turning Arab attention away from Damascus and fixing it on Jerusalem cannot be ruled out.  Let us hope sanity prevails, but as long as Damascus is burning, Galilee cannot be wholly at ease.

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