Thursday, April 3, 2008

Revenge for Mugniyah Could Ignite Conflict in North of Israel

Expecting retaliatory attack by Hizbullah for Imad Mugniyah's killing,
regional players – including Israel, Iran and Syria – boost
preparations for possible military confrontation on Israeli-Lebanese

Revenge for Mugniyah Could Ignite Conflict in North
Ron Ben-Yishai
Published: 04.03.08, 09:52 / Israel News,7340,L-3527123,00.html

Preparations on both the Syrian and the Israeli side for a possible
retaliation for Imad Mugniyah's killing have brought about a "cold
escalation" on the northern border that could lead to an open military

Since Hizbullah's leader's assassination in Damascus in February,
Syria and Israel have gradually boosted deployment on the ground,
while at the same time sending out covert and overt warnings to the
other side.

Arab news outlets recently reported that Syria has already started
reinforcing its forces on the Lebanese border, called up the reserves
for training and raised alertness of its missile, rocket and
anti-aircraft systems. Hizbullah has also boosted preparations for a
potential Israeli tank offensive, while making last-minute efforts to
have its heavy rocket systems north of the Litani River ready.

The recent escalation emanates from Israel's assessment that Hizbullah
– with the aid of Syria and Iran – is planning a big terror attack, or
a rocket and missile attack, as revenge for Mugniyah's death.
Officials also estimate the Syria might join forces with Hizbullah in
such an attack, to retaliate for Israel's strike on its alleged
nuclear facility last summer.

Meanwhile, Syria, Hizbullah and Iran are aware that such an attack
could lead to a "hard and disproportionate" Israeli response, which
Israeli officials have already threatened to deliver. Israel's enemies
believe that such a response would include a large-scale airstrike on
Lebanon and Syria that would help Israel rebuild its deterrence
following the Second Lebanon War.

Hamas to aid Hizbullah?

While revenge for Mugniyah is currently the most obvious cause for the
rising tension on the border, Israeli intelligence officials also
believe that if the IDF launches a wide-scale operation in Gaza, Iran
could instruct Hizbullah to aid Hamas by firing rockets at Israel.

A reverse scenario, in which Hamas launches rockets, missiles and
terror attacks on Israel in a bid to help Hizbullah in the north is
also plausible.

A third scenario that should be taken into account is that Syria may
take advantage of a retaliatory attack by Hizbullah, and a consequent
Israeli response, to regain its control over Lebanon and crown the
Shiite organization as the dominant political force in the country.

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