The same day saw reports of five people dying in the Syrian Golan, with a three-vehicle convoy being attacked from the air. According a report by a Syrian human rights organization, three people were killed in the attack – two Hezbollah members and three Druze people. All were members of the “Druze Resistance” militia led by Samir Kuntar (murderer of the Haran family in the 70s, who was released in a prisoner exchange with Hezbollah). The Druze people were from the village of Hader in Syria, and the usually reliable Syrian human rights organization attributed the attack to an Israeli drone whose missiles completely destroyed one vehicle in the convoy and damaged two others.
A Syrian news agency claimed that Kuntar was the intended target of the strike, but he was not killed because he wasn’t on the convoy.
Syrian and other foreign sources claim that the strike was intended to prevent Iranian-led terrorist acts. The organization led by Kuntar and Mustafa Mughniyeh (son of arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, who was assassinated in Damascus in 2008) has already attempted several terrorist bombings in the Golan.
The recent rocket fire toward Israel fits the policy of Iran’s protégé’s in the past year – retaliating against any perceived attack by Israel - whether it’s the interception of smuggled weapons from Syria and Iran via the bombing of supply convoys, or the targeted assassination intended terrorist bombings in the Golan Heights and Galilee panhandle.
According to Iran’s new policy, The Golan and Lebanon are a single front, on which Hezbollah is fighting Israel. This January, Hezbollah fighters shot anti-tank missiles at Israeli forces in Har Dov, killing two IDF soldiers, in retaliation for the assassination of two Hezbollah leaders, which was attributed to Israel.
The policy has stayed the same, and it seems that this time the Iranians chose to fire into Israel, even deep into it, but not to cause much damage or kill. This is probably due to the fact that the targets of the three-vehicle assassination were fairly low-ranking members. Above all, it’s clear the Islamic Jihad was signaling that it will not keep quiet in response to any Israeli attack, even in Syria – but that it also does not want to escalate the situation right now.
Opening another round of fighting with Israel right now might place Hezbollah, Assad’s forces, and Iran in an inferior position to the Islamist rebels in Syria and on the Syrian-Lebanese border, and Hezbollah currently has a clear list of priorities dictated by Iran. That’s why we saw the use of long-range rockets that will make it clear who’s behind their launch, but also wouldn’t force Israel to start large-scale combat operations against Hezbollah in the Golan or Lebanon.
It’s likely that the message was received in Israel. The IDF couldn’t let these attacks pass by quietly, and responded by striking targets in Syria on Thursday.