Israel

Focus Turns to Growing Hezbollah Control Over Lebanese Army, After Deadly Cross-Border Killing of Israeli Solider

The Associated Press yesterday reported on efforts to prevent escalation in the aftermath of what it described as “a deadly border skirmish” between Israel and Lebanon.

Israel and Lebanon on Monday rushed to ease tensions following a deadly border skirmish that left one Israeli soldier dead, with the enemy countries holding a face-to-face meeting with U.N. peacekeepers and pledging their commitment to a seven-year-old cease-fire. The U.N. peacekeeping force along the volatile border, UNIFIL, said it called the meeting to “establish the facts and circumstances” behind the flare-up in violence and to restore a cease-fire that has been in place since a 2006 war. It said both sides pledged to preserve “calm and stability.”

The Sunday incident – which was similarly described as a “skirmish” by among others the Guardian – involved the unprovoked murder of 31 year old IDF Master Sgt. Shlomi Cohen, who was shot in the neck and chest by a Lebanese sniper as Cohen was driving a civilian vehicle near an Israeli naval base. Roughly four and a half hours after the 8:30pm Sunday shooting, Israeli forces opened fire into a forested area across the Israeli-Lebanese border after spotting “suspicious movement.” The Guardian quoted Daniel Nisman, a Tel Aviv-based security analyst, drawing attention to “rogue elements” which have established a presence in the Lebanese army (LAF). American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Michael Rubin had already noted as early as 2010 that it is “an open secret among Lebanese of all political stripes that Hezbollah has infiltrated the Lebanese Armed Forces,” an assessment that came in the wake of years in which Israeli military officials had warned over exactly such Hezbollah efforts. Analysts increasingly fear that the Iran-backed terror group is now seeking to provoke Israel into a conflict. Hezbollah’s brand as an anti-Israel group has been shattered by its participation in the Syrian conflict on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime, and it may be looking to ignite a confrontation in order to begin rebuilding that image.

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