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Hezbollah Attack Seen as Effort by Iran to “Expand into the Golan Heights”

Hezbollah operatives fired Kornet anti-tank missiles at an Israeli army patrol along the Israel-Lebanon border on Wednesday, killing two Israeli soldiers, wounding seven, and prompting Israeli retaliatory artillery fire on southern Lebanon. A Spanish peacekeeper of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed in the exchange of fire. Mortars were launched into northern Israel from southern Lebanon for over an hour after the initial attack.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared on January 15 that Hezbollah would “enter into Galilee and…go even beyond the Galilee.” There was a reported Israeli airstrike on January 18, which killed six Hezbollah members and several personnel from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including senior commanders.

On Tuesday, at least two rockets were fired at the northern Golan Heights from Syria, in an attack attributed by the IDF to Hezbollah. IDF artillery fired on Syrian military targets and the Israeli Air Force (IAF) launched overnight air strikes on artillery positions of the Syrian military.

Hezbollah took responsibility for Wednesday’s attack, claiming that it was carried out by the “righteous martyrs of Quneitra.”

Some analysts have suggested that the attack was not just retaliation for the January 18 airstrike, but rather is part of a broader strategic shift by Hezbollah, as it attempts to build a terror infrastructure in the Golan Heights. Tony Badran, a Research Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said in a conference call hosted by The Israel Project  (audio link) on Wednesday that Hezbollah’s attacks are indicative of a broader “Iranian effort to expand into the Golan Heights.” Doing so, Iran and Hezbollah hope, would allow Hezbollah to “target Israel from the Golan Heights while avoiding devastation in Lebanon.” Hezbollah views the Shebaa Farms, the area in which Wednesday’s attack occurred, and the Golan as “a singular theater of operations.” By responding sharply, Israel is demonstrating that “the buck stops here” and that “Iran will not be allowed to set up shop in the Golan Heights.”

The Israel Project is publisher of The Tower.

[Photo: Associated Press / YouTube]