The latest attack in the Shebaa Farms claimed by Hezbollah was to be expected after the Israeli raid in the Syrian Golan Heights on January 18. What is underway between Hezbollah and Israel?
Israel fears that Hezbollah’s operations in Syria may also be directed against its territory, while Hezbollah has repeatedly lost manpower and weapons due to Israeli strikes both in Syria and Lebanon. Hezbollah’s reaction occurred in the Shebaa Farms also to raise international attention on the Israeli permanence in the area.
The Golan has become another hotspot in the Syrian crisis. Why?
Jabhat al-Nusra and other groups seized control of a relevant sector in the Syrian Golan last September. The fact that they have not been hit so far shows that Hezbollah is currently at the top of the Israeli security concerns. On the other hand, the territory lost to the anti-Assad rebels is considered to be of strategic importance for Hezbollah’s operations in Syria. The Golan is meant to witness new tensions and confrontations in the next future.
Is a continuation of the 2006 war in the cards?
The increasing animosity will be the cause of other clashes and attacks, but an escalation leading to an all-out war like the 2006 one must be avoided. A new war would probably end in an another standoff with no gains for either side, but with further severe domestic repercussions for Lebanon and with just more and more resentment on a regional level for Israel.
What may refrain the two parties from undertaking an all-out war?
Calling for a united front from Lebanon to Golan might serve the purpose of increasing the motivation of the Lebanese “resistance”, but Hezbollah’s operations in Syria and Lebanon would inevitably suffer from another war with Israel. The present situation seems to be favorable to this latter. Hezbollah is mostly focused on Syria and Lebanon military-wise, and Israel can keep in check its moves and hit whenever deems appropriate. This is far less demanding than a full-scale conflict. In prospect, the confrontation will likely continue to be of law intensity with tit-for-tat attacks as it has been up to now. Nevertheless, the mechanism of chain reactions might slide out of hand and ignite an unrelenting escalation.
In this framework, UNIFIL can play any role?
Unifil can play an important role in assisting the parties to exercise maximum restraint. Since its inception, the UN mission has been instrumental to keep the territory under its mandate substantially stable, and this effort might reflect positively also on the Golan Heights in coordination with the local UN mission, Undof.