Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite group, has issued a rejoinder denouncing the missile strikes conducted by the IAF (Israeli Air Force) on 18th January, and also threatened an escalation of conflict with Israel. The target of the two missile strikes was a convoy carrying an advance guard made up Hezbollah militants and Iranian Army officers. A total of 11 fighters were killed, 5 Iranians and 6 Hezbollah militants.
Among the dead were Jihad Mughniyah and a Hezbollah commander known as Mohamad Issa (alias Abu Issa). Jihad Mughniyah (the son of Hezbollah founder, Imad Mugniyeh) headed a Hezbollah terrorist cell that had planned and conducted terrorist attacks inside Israel. Mohammed Issa headed Hezbollah operations in Iraq and Syria. The other Hezbollah terrorists killed were Mahdi al-Moussawi, Abbas Hijazi, Hussein Hassan and Ali Fouad.
Among the Iranians killed were General Mohammad Ali Allah Dadi and Abu Ali al-Tabtabani, an Iranian Commander. Intelligence reports have confirmed that Ali al-Tabtabani headed Hezbollah’s external the intelligence and military operations. They were part of an Iranian team inspecting the deployment of Fatah-110s by Hezbollah militants near Quneitra. Fatah-110s are a series of medium-range missiles manufactured by Iran. The National Security Adviser for Iran, Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, has pledged punishment and retribution for the killings.
The targeted convoy was transporting a team of dedicated and experienced terrorists who were planning attacks against Israel as evidenced by the attachment of Iranian officers to the Hezbollah cell, and the preemptive Israeli strike did neutralize a tragic terror attack. Intelligence reports show that the team was expected to tour a Hezbollah forward base near Quneitra. Hezbollah aims to use the forward base to deploy and launch surface missiles against Israel, and the preemptive IAF attack was a stern warning by Israel to the Shiite Alliance.
In June 2014, Israel warned both Hezbollah and Syrian troops that the Golan Heights is off-limits, and any military maneuvers near Quneitra will be attacked. However, on 10th January 2015, the Syrian army felt confident enough to deploy their new arsenal of Fatah-110s and other surface-to-surface missiles. General Ali Abdullah Ayoub, Syrian Deputy Chief of Staff, was tasked with overseeing the deployment of the missiles on the site. For this mission, he was accompanied by IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp) officers attached to the Syrian High Command. A few days later; Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah triumphantly declared that Hezbollah had missiles whose range covered the whole of Israel.
Currently, the Israeli security fraternity has adopted proactive strategic measures to thwart off a possible cross-border raid by Hezbollah. Emergency shelters have been opened and the firearm arsenal readied for asymmetrical combat. Crisis directives have been issued across Northern Israel and the Civilian Home Front has been mobilized. Nonetheless, there is palpable concern that Hezbollah militants may use uncharted underground tunnels to infiltrate the Galilee. This fear is accentuated by the statement issued by Al Akhbar (Hezbollah’s media mouthpiece) that Hezbollah will send its forces deep into the Galilee. Hezbollah had hoped to use the forward base near Quneitra as a second front (the other one being South Lebanon) from where it could launch a simultaneous two-pronged assault on the Galilee. The State of Israel is determined to make the actualization of such a feat untenable.