While the world’s attention has been focused on France and Europe, the civil war in Syria, along with ISIS’s rampage through Iraq, (not to mention the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan) has been raging on in the background.
All of a sudden the Israeli-Syrian border came back to the fore today as an Israeli airstrike (or should I say “suspected” Israeli airstrike) killed 5-7 Hezbollah terrorists including the son of the late unlamented assassinated (allegedly by Israel) commander Imad Mughniya:
At least five Hezbollah members, including at least one senior commander, were killed in an Israeli helicopter strike in the Syrian Golan Heights on Sunday, sources close to the terror group said Sunday night.
Among the dead was Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of Imad Mughniyeh, a senior Hezbollah commander killed in Damascus in 2008, according to a number of reports.
Jihad Mughniyeh had been serving as the Shi’ite terrorist group’s Golan District commander, Syrian National Council spokesman Mouayyed Ghizlan told CNN in November.
Reuters, citing two sources close to the group, said five people were killed.
Hezbollah confirmed that several fighters were killed, but did not specify how many.
“A group of Hezbollah mujahedeen were martyred in a Zionist rocket attack in Quneitra, and their names will be revealed later,” said a message flashed on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar news channel.
They were killed during a field reconnaissance mission in the Mazraat Amal village of Quneitra province, it said.
Unfortunately in the Middle East, every action has a reaction:
The Israeli army took “a long series of steps” to brace for a possible Hezbollah response, Israel’s Channel 2 reported. Residents of northern Israel were said to be concerned about Hezbollah retaliation. Israel did not order the opening of bomb shelters on the Israeli side of the Golan, however, Channel 2 said.
Not all the terrorists were Lebanese or Syrian either:
Other Arab media reports said one or more senior Iranian fighters had also been killed.
What triggered the sudden show of force by Israel?
The security source said the strike targeted terrorists preparing “a major attack” on Israel, but could not provide details about the identities of the targets or the nature of the attack they were allegedly preparing.
The IDF would not comment.
Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon pre-empted questions about the Israeli strike on Syrian soil with the pertinent question “What were Hezbollah fighters doing in Syria?”:
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon refused to say anything Sunday eveing about the reported IAF strike in the Syrian Golan that killed Jihad Mughniyeh, a senior Hezbollah man whose father, Imad Mughniyeh, was also assassinated by Israel.
However, Yaalon did respond to the reports from Hezbollah about the incident, and said that they contradicted Hezbollah’s own official claims, made in recent years, that they do not operate in the Golan.
“If Hezbollah say their people were hurt in the targeted killing, let them explain what they were doing in Syria,” Yaalon told Radio Kol Chai.
And since this is election season, how could some political swiping not be inserted into even this vital security matter? Yaalon added:
He also took a swipe at Labor’s Yitzchak “Buji” Herzog and Tzipi Livni. “If Buji and Tzipi were running the country, we would already be [facing a] Hamastan in Judea and Samaria,” he said.
The opposition were not backwards in coming forward either:
Former IDF Southern Command chief Yoav Galant tells Channel 2 on Sunday, shortly after the reported Israeli airstrike on Syria, that it’s not impossible to rule out connecting the timing of the attack to the elections campaign.
“Based on past events, you can learn that sometimes there’s timing that’s not unconnected to the elections,” he says, pointing to the Israeli assassination of Hamas strongman Ahmed Jabari a few months before the 2013 elections.
Timed for the elections or not, we can all say a hearty Good Riddance to the Hezbollah terrorists, and especially to Mughniya Junior, an apple which did not fall far from the tree:
Hezbollah admitted Sunday that one of its senior men was killed along with five or six other operatives in an IAF strike in Syria. Reports quoted in Israeli media said that the man is Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of Imad Mughniyeh, a senior Hezbollah officer who was also killed by Israel several years ago. Hezbollah reportedly called the death of Mughniyeh “an unbearable blow.” He was reportedly very close to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.
An interview given by an official in the Syrian opposition to CNN Arabic in October said that Jihad Mughniyeh has been appointed “commander of the Golan Heights area” by Hezbollah.
Ynet gives us more background on the terrorists who were targeted:
Four other Hezbollah fighters were killed in the strike, among them field commander Mohammad Issa, who goes by the nom de guerre “Abu Issa”; the Iranian Commander in the Syrian Golan Heights Abu Ali al-Tabtabai, also known as “Abu Ali Reza”; and Ismail al-Ashhab.
According to Al Maydeen, Israeli forces hit a convoy traveling near the village, a hotly contested site in the Syrian civil war, with al Qaeda affiliated rebels battling pro-regime forces for a nearby border crossing which connects Syria and Lebanon.
“An Israeli helicopter fired two missiles on Amal Farms in Quneitra,” the Lebanese news channel said, adding that two reconnaissance planes were also flying over the area.
The Al Maydeen report said that the missiles were fired at vehicles belonging to the National Defense Force, a part-time volunteer reserve
component of the Syrian military, organized by the Syrian government during the civil war. Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star quoted Lebanese sources as saying the strike entirely destroyed one Hezbollah vehicle and damaged another.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group monitoring the civil war, said the missiles fired on Sunday targeted armed vehicles, citing local sources. It said it did not know if the vehicles belonged to the army, Hezbollah or anti-Assad insurgents.
Of course this strike should come as no surprise to anyone following the region’s developments, and it is not the first time either:
According to foreign sources, Israeli air force have allegedly carried out several raids against targets in Syria, including depots storing weapons meant for Hezbollah, since the conflict there started nearly four years ago.
Though Israel had maintained a policy of neutrality regarding the Syrian war, the most recent strike was said to be last December, when Israeli warplanes reportedly struck weapons warehouses near Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.
Israel has never confirmed it carried out the strikes, but it says it has a policy of preventing arms transfers to militant groups including Hezbollah.
I’m sure we’ll hear a condemnation from the Security Council in no time flat, and calls for restraint “on both sides” emanating from Europe in 3…2…1…. or maybe for a change they’ll be busy dealing with Hezbollah’s comrades-in-arms on their own turf.