Had Hizbullah wanted to prevent the rocket attack on the Western Galilee Thursday morning, it would have done so. The organization is deployed in southern Lebanon and controls the area; it is difficult to imagine that the organizations that fired the Katyushas – apparently Palestinian groups or radical Islamists – could have transferred their rockets to the area, positioned them, and fired them at Israel without Hizbullah’s knowledge.
Therefore, the reasonable scenario is that Hizbullah “turned a blind eye” and did not prevent the rocket attack, so that the Islamist and Palestinian groups based in refugee camps in the Tyre and Sidon area could fire.
This way, both Hizbullah and the Palestinian organizations were able to achieve their targets: Hizbullah showed that it is acting and assisting its “Palestinian brethren,” yet for the time being without provoking a massive Israeli response. Meanwhile, Palestinian and Islamist groups showed Hamas that they did not leave it alone in the battlefield, and at the same time attempted to entangle the Lebanese government in a confrontation with Israel.
The IDF’s response was quick but measured – artillery fire directed at the launching sites as a clear signal that Israel will not sit idly by, even though it knows that Hizbullah did not carry out the provocation.
The measured response is sufficient for now, yet we need to be prepared for the possibility that these radical Palestinian and Islamist organizations will not make do with a one-time rocket attack. They may attempt to fire more barrages, which would be the ultimate proof of whether Hizbullah is indirectly involved in the attacks – that is, whether it is giving them its blessing. These groups may also attempt to infiltrate Israel and carry out a terror attack within Israeli territory.
The IDF is prepared for both possibilities. The bottom line is that the prospects of a flare-up in the north have greatly increased, and we may see the kind of escalation that both sides are not interested in. The coming hours will be critical on this front, and perhaps the next 24 hours. The IDF is capable of escalating the fighting and engaging in combat activities in the north as well, and it prepared for this possibility, yet clearly it is not in the State of Israel’s interest to fight on two fronts simultaneously.
Therefore, along with the military preparations and boosted activity along the northern border, Israel has been conveying messages to the Lebanese government – and through it to the Lebanese army and to UNIFIL forces – making it clear that decisive action on their part is required in order to prevent the situation in the northern front from boiling over into a all-out clash.