The total number of shots fired by the IDF last night against Hezbollah in Lebanon is 92. According to Mounir Rabih, these strikes responded to the attack against an Israeli oil tanker in the Arabian Sea. Tel Aviv would also seek to influence the course of negotiations on the Iranian nuclear issue and to obtain guarantees on Iran’s influence in the region.
A first since 2014! The Israeli air force admitted for the first time in 7 years having carried out several strikes in southern Lebanon against Hezbollah military installations. Two-night raids on the morning of August 5 targeted the neighboring Lebanese villages of Mahmoudiyé and Aichiyé. In addition, the Lebanese army recorded around 100 artillery fires from Israel.
According to IDF spokesman Avichay Adraee, “these airstrikes target missile launching areas as well as the infrastructure used for terrorist activities.” Israel says it responded to rocket fire which set off a fire at the border. The powerful Lebanese Shiite movement, for its part, has not declared anything. According to local sources, it was, in fact, three projectiles fired by independent Palestinian groups living in Lebanon.
Lebanon asks help from UN against Israel
Lebanese reactions to this aggression were not long in coming. Former Prime Minister Hassan Diab condemned the Israeli attack and filed an urgent complaint to the Security Council.
“The Israeli enemy, first with its artillery and then with its warplanes, carried out an explicit aggression against the sovereignty of Lebanon,” he said, adding that “the enemy has publicly admitted to violating resolution 1701.”
The former member of the Lebanese government is referring to the UN text dating from 2006, which reaffirms “its firm commitment, as recalled in all its previous resolutions on the issue, to the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized borders”.
This escalation would still be controlled: “the two sides respond to each other, but control their responses,” said Mounir Rabih, political analyst for the Lebanese daily L’Orient Le Jour.
“By bombing morning and night, Israel is proving to Hezbollah that it can act anytime. It shows that it imposes the balance of power. But these attacks remain targeted, they do not cause deaths, because this could lead to a real escalation, and the two camps refuse and fear this scenario.”
This is not the first time that the two belligerents have provoked each other with rockets. During the lightning war between Hamas and Israel from May 10 to 21, projectiles were fired from Lebanon to show their support for the Palestinian cause.
Fearing war on several fronts, the IDF had sent drones and flares in retaliation and fired shells into Lebanese territory. In a statement, the Israeli army also threatened Lebanon to act even more firmly. The Israeli strikes still killed 21-year-old Hezbollah supporter Mohammad Kassem Tahhan.
A “collective response” against Iran promised by Washington
But behind these bombings, “it is above all a message addressed to Iran”, estimates the Lebanese political analyst. Indeed, Tehran is accused by Israel, the United States and the United Kingdom of having committed the attack in the Arabian Sea against the ship Mercer Street, managed by an Israeli billionaire. Iranian authorities deny any involvement in this drone attack, which resulted in the death of two crew members. But nothing works, for the enemies of the Mollahs, the culprit is all found.
Washington then promised a “collective response”. For his part, the British Prime Minister warned Iran that it had to “face the consequences” of this “unacceptable and scandalous” attack.
On the Israeli side, the tone is a little more martial. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett raised the possibility of a unilateral attack. In an official statement dated August 3, he said, ‘the time to get comfortable in Tehran and set the whole Middle East on fire from there is over. We work to mobilize the world, but at the same time, we also know how to act on our own. Iran knows the price we charge when someone threatens our security’. In other words, an Israeli response was expected to say the least.
“It is obvious that Israel bombed in response to the event in the Arabian Sea. But all these events are linked with the regional situation and, in particular, with the Iranian nuclear issue. “The two protagonists want to raise the stakes,” underlines the political journalist.
Still, at a standstill, these negotiations on Washington’s return to the deal on the Iranian nuclear program are advancing by one step and then retreating by ten. The US and Iran cannot come to an agreement, despite countless talks.
Who will give in first to the demands of the other? On the one hand, the Americans and the European Union demand that Tehran return to the terms of the agreement signed in Vienna in 2015, respecting the uranium enrichment rate. On the other hand, Tehran urges the West to lift all sanctions before a potential return to these initial conditions.
During his inauguration on August 3, the new Iranian President, Ebrahim Raïssi, declared: “we will certainly seek to obtain the lifting of the oppressive sanctions, but we will not tie the living conditions of the nation to the will of the foreigners”.
Tel Aviv, for its part, would categorically refuse to allow its European and American allies to revert to the unconditional agreement on Iranian foreign policy. “Israel seeks to include Iranian influence in the negotiations on Iranian nuclear power” adds Mounir Rabih.
Complicating Iran’s position
Indeed, Israel denies any presence of pro-Iranian militias near its borders. The IDF aircraft have reportedly carried out more than 1,000 strikes in Syria in the past three years. The objective is clear: it is to annihilate the military capabilities of the Iranian militias present not far from its borders. The strikes mainly target Iranian troops, military groups affiliated with Tehran, Hezbollah arms depots as well as Bashar al-Assad’s troops.
In this regard, last December, Brigadier General Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of the Israeli military intelligence research wing, declared: “We want to prevent Iran from turning Syria into an Iranian base close to Israel, which could bring about a radical strategic change in the situation. This is why we continue to shell the Iranian bases so that they do not take control of the country.”
Benjamin Netanyahu was also noted: at a recent ceremony for the appointment of the new Israeli leader of the Mossad David Barnea, he said that if Israel had to choose between “friction with the United States and the elimination of the Iranian threat, the elimination of the existential threat wins”.
“Israel is therefore trying to take the lead in imposing its conditions to complicate the Iranian position. But Tehran has a united axis that responds and acts according to its orders. So a response in the coming days against American or Israeli interests is not to be ruled out,” predicts the political analyst.
Indeed, militias affiliated with Tehran regularly send rockets to American-controlled areas in Iraq or Syria. In this low-intensity conflict, Israelis and Iranians watch each other, provoke each other, but above all fear a frontal conflict that would extend to the entire region.