Report: Israel "planning strike on Hezbollah sites in Syria"

Published 30 August 2010

Kuwaiti daily quotes unnamed Western sources to say that Israel has bolstered its military presence in the Golan and stepped up UAV, balloon overflights, in preparation for an attack on Hezbollah’s weapons storage facilities in Syria; since the 2006 war with Israel, Hezbollah has been storing its more valuable rockets and missiles in facilities in Syria, figuring that Israel would think long and hard before attacking military storage facilities in Syria, even if these facilities are used to store Hezbollah’s armaments; if an Israeli attack takes place, it should be seen as part of the preparations for an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities: in case of such an attack, Hezbollah would be instructed by Iran to launch the organization’s weapons against Israel, so Israel has an interest in weakening the organization’s military capabilities

One of the more intriguing — and still hush-hush — aspects of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah was the manner in which the Israeli Air Force, during the first thirty-six minutes of the war, in a series of precise air strikes, destroyed all of Hezbollah’s mid- and long-range rockets and missiles while they — the rockets and missiles — were still in their storage facilities. Hezbollah was left with thousands of short-range Katyusha rockets, which it fired on Israeli cities and towns in northern Israel, but it was unable to threaten targets deeper inside Israel.

Iran has replenished Hezbollah’s weapon stocks, and the organization is now estimated to have three times the number of rockets and missiles it had in the summer of 2006. Hezbollah has learnt from that war, and is determined to make it difficult for Israel to destroy the organization’s weapons in the next round of war by using the Shi’a population as a human shield for these weapons. Most of the organization’s sorter range rockets are now placed inside schools, hospitals, and residential buildings in some 160 Shi’a villages in south Lebanon, forcing Israel to make a decision, at the outset of the war, of whether or not to attack the buildings in which these weapons are stored, thus risking inflicting death and injury to tens of thousands of civilians, and the opprobrium of the international community.

The longer range missiles are stored in Syria, right across the border from Lebanon. Hezbollah figures, not incorrectly, that Israel would think long and hard before attacking military storage facilities in Syria, even if these facilities are used to store Hezbollah’s armaments.

It now appears that Israel has thought long and hard about the issue, but that it is nearing a decision to destroy Hezbollah’s more destructive weapons even if these weapons are stored inside Syria. There would be two reasons for such an attack. First, Hezbollah runs a state-within-a-state in Lebanon, conducting its own foreign and defense policies and running welfare, education, financial, and communication networks independent of the Lebanese state. This Hezbollah-state is in war with Israel, so it would be in Israel’s interests to see to it that Hezbollah does not become too strong.

Second, Hezbollah, beyond its domestic Lebanese-related interests and perspective, is an agent and a tool of Iran’s foreign policy. If Israel is planning on attacking Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities, it — Israel — would be