Wednesday, January 28, 2015

28-Jan-15: There's fighting on Israel's northern border today

Near Har Dov on Israel's northern border where incoming Hezbollah rocket and mortar fire
this morning has caused unspecified Israeli casualties [Image Source]
Wednesday noon, and it's shaping up to be a violent and fraught day.

In Israel's post-Shalit Transaction reality, the news from the north of Israel this morning that the IDF is checking into whether IDF soldiers may have been kidnapped by Hezbollah terrorists is as worrying as, and even more worrying in some respects than, the reports of Israeli service personnel hurt.

Here's what Times of Israel ["Casualties reported as soldiers attacked on Lebanese border"] is saying at this hour (noon):
At least four Israeli soldiers were reported wounded in the northern Har Dov area along Israel’s border with Lebanon on Wednesday morning as an IDF patrol came under attack. Initial reports said an army vehicle was targeted by anti-tank missiles. At the same time, IDF positions in the area were hit with mortar shells. Israel responded to the attack with multiple artillery strikes in southern Lebanon, Lebanese media reported. Residents in the nearby town of Metula were told to stay in their homes...  The attack, launched from an area controlled by Hezbollah, comes after repeated threats by the Lebanese terror group, which said it would retaliate against Israel for an airstrike earlier in January that killed its top commander in the Syrian Golan Heights, along with an Iranian general and 10 others. At least two rockets launched from Syrian territory landed in the Golan Heights Tuesday in an attack that Israeli defense officials attributed to Hezbollah. In response, Israel shelled Syrian army positions, and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon issued a stern warning to Hezbollah and its patron Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Har Dov mentioned in this report is a place about which most people know very little. It's a strip of land 11 kilometers long and 2.5 kilometers wide located where the Lebanese-Syrian border meets Israel's Golan Heights border. Who owns it is a matter of controversy much older than the State of Israel:
The dispute over ownership of Shebaa Farms [the name by which the Arabs refer to it] resulted in part from the failure of the French Mandate administrations, and later the Lebanese and Syrian governments, to demarcate the border between Lebanon and Syria. Documents from the 1920s and 1930s indicate that inhabitants paid taxes to the Lebanese government. However, from the early 1950s until Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights in the Six Day War, Syria was the de facto ruling power. In 1981, Shebaa Farms was annexed by Israel as part of the Golan Heights, a move not recognized by the international community. The region has been a flashpoint for violence since Israel withdrew from Lebanon in May 2000. Hezbollah claimed that the withdrawal was not complete because Shebaa was on Lebanese - not Syrian - territory. After studying 81 different maps, the United Nations concluded that there is no evidence of the abandoned farmlands being Lebanese. Nevertheless, Lebanon has continued to claim ownership of the territory. In August 2008, the president of Lebanon, Michel Suleiman stated: "The countdown for liberating the rest of our lands has begun. And today I confirm the [use] of all available and legitimate means to achieve this goal"... On the eve of the 1967 war, the region was under effective Syrian control... [Wikipedia]
In other words, whatever is eventually decided about who has the right to control this piece of ground (25 sq. km, or about 10 square miles) roughly a quarter the size of Disneyworld, almost no one thinks it ought to be Lebanon or the Hezbollah forces that hold it in their effective control. Yet in the name of that specious claim, it's in the news again today and for the worst reasons.

Israelis living in the towns adjacent to the border zone have been on edge for some time. And as Ynet reports today, Iran's agents in the area, the terrorists of Hezbollah, have not been slow to claim 'credit' for the firing today:
Hezbollah for its part claimed they had hit an IDF convoy. The residents of two border adjacent kibbutzim, Dafna and Kfar Giladi were instructed to remain at home. Meanwhile, the IDF begun drilling along Israel's border with Lebanon amid fears that Hezbollah might be burrowing under the border... The IDF stress there is no intelligence indicating the existence of such tunnels, but that residents reported suspicious noises... For some time now residents of the area have complained of such noises and they say they fear Hezbollah might be building underground tunnels under the border, much like Hamas has built tunnels into Israel from Gaza. Last summer, local community leaders demanded the IDF examine the claims: "I have heard claims that soil in the north is harder to dig in than the one in the south. But this area is not rocky, it is actually very easy to tunnel there," said Benny Ben-Mubhar, head of the Mevo'ot Hermon Regional Council... Sarit Eliyahu, a resident of the border community, said the noises she hears are "like a vibrating cell phone." [Ynet today]
And where, you may ask, are the United Nations peacekeepers who patrol the area? Busy holding press conferences with their Lebanese partners in which they share the credit for preserving the peace that is so noticeable in the area. Think we're making this up? See "UNIFIL chief hails cooperation with Lebanese army" [Xinhua, January 28, 2015]. What a charming place the world of self-delusion is.

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