Syrian news outlets reported that Israel struck Hezbollah positions around Qalamoun on Saturday, according to the Times of Israel. More:
The Israel Defense Forces declined to comment on the alleged airstrikes. Hezbollah denied Israeli raids had targeted their positions, according to Channel 2.
According to Channel 2, the IDF released a statement before the reports emerged warning that, “in the coming hours sounds of explosions may be heard in the Upper Galilee. These are initiated and controlled explosions that were planned in advance and not a security incident.”
The reported strikes came less than a week after Hezbollah-allied terrorist Samir Kuntar was killed in an explosion in his Damascus home, which has been attributed to Israel. Kuntar’s death was followed within hours by rocket strikes from Lebanon on the northern Israeli city of Nahariya.
Israel has warned Hezbollah not to respond to Kuntar’s death.
There is a lot of battle smoke in the Middle East these days, and it can be hard to separate the rumors from the news. But if there was an actual strike, an interesting dynamic appears to be playing out here: Israel’s strikes on Hizballah win it points in most of the Sunni world, where Hizballah is hated as stalwart Iranian ally and a participant in the atrocities of the Assad regime. And as for Hizballah, it is in a dilemma: If it fails to retaliate against the Israeli strikes, it looks weak. But if it retaliates, it gives Israel a perfect opportunity to unleash a serious series of attacks at a time when the war in Syria makes the organization stretched, exposed and vulnerable.
It’s too soon to tell what’s going on here, but this is one sideshow to the Syrian Civil War to watch closely. Israel doesn’t get many chances to attack its enemies while basking in the approval of the Sunni Arab world.