Ron Ben-Yishai

Hezbollah’s political message

Nahariya attack may have been inspired by Hezbollah for political reasons

We can assume that Hassan Nasrallah’s men did not fire the Katyusha rockets at Nahariya over the weekend. Thus far, no organization claimed responsibility for the attack, yet its hallmarks suggest that it was not carried out by Hezbollah, but rather, by a Palestinian-Lebanese group associated with Global Jihad. That is, a group inspired by al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden.


One of the indications supporting this assessment is the timing of the rocket fire – the eighth anniversary of the September 11 attack. This year, as it does every year, al-Qaeda’s leadership motivated affiliated groups to carry out attacks on this day in order to reemphasize Global Jihad’s ability to contend with the West and prove that al-Qaeda is still alive and kicking. We must also keep in mind that we are in the midst of Ramadan, which traditionally serves as a backdrop for terror attacks on the part of individuals and organizations with religious Muslim motivation.


The two rockets were fired from the Tyre area, where several Palestinian refugee camps are located. These camps, which Lebanon’s security forces largely avoid, serve as a shelter for many members of the Ansar al-Islam group and smaller organizations affiliated with al-Qaeda. These activists moved to south Lebanon after the Lebanese Army suppressed their rebellion in the north two years ago.


Most members of these groups are Palestinians or other Sunni Arabs, who in the past operated among the ranks of al-Qaeda in Iraq and moved on its orders to Lebanon. In the past three years, ever since the end of the Second Lebanon War, they carried out several attacks against UNIFIL troops and fired rockets at Israel. The number of attacks was relatively low because Hezbollah, a Shiite group, rejects Sunni ideology and limits these groups’ activity.


The last time Global Jihad members fired rockets at Israel was in February, while the IDF was operating in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead. In all cases, three or four rockets were fired, and the attacks were not particularly effective. In the past too, Global Jihad groups did not claim responsibility for the strikes. The IDF, which was aware of the perpetrators’ identity, responded to provocations on the part of Global Jihad’s Lebanese branch by firing a limited number of artillery and tank shells, and this was the case in the recent incident as well.


Domestic threat

However, it is quite possible that senior Hezbollah members in south Lebanon had advance information about the attacks and decided not to prevent it, and may have even encouraged the perpetrators. This may be the case because at this time Hezbollah has a political interest in prompting tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border. Sa’ad Hariri, the head of the anti-Syrian coalition who won the elections, refused to form a government based on the “recipe” dictated to him by Nasrallah and General Michel Aoun.


Hariri just announced that he failed in forming a government, but President Suleiman asked him to try again. Under such circumstances, Hezbollah has an interest in escalating border tensions. That way, it produces an indirect yet clear threat vis-à-vis Lebanon’s political elements and its citizens. Hezbollah’s message is clear: Should you fail to meet our political demands, we will no longer show responsibility and restraint, as we have done in the south of the country since the war ended.


By doing so, Hezbollah acquires a political lever, creates an indirect threat within Lebanon, and at the same time reinforces its prestige.


Finally, we must note that over the weekend we saw the end of a large-scale IDF drill that simulated a campaign in the north, including Lebanon. Such drills (three overall) were met by a Hezbollah response in the past too, as well as threatening speeches by Nasrallah. It is possible that the recent rocket attacks were not carried out by Hezbollah, but rather, were inspired by it, and were meant to display the organization’s confidence and readiness to face Israel.


We can assume that this incident will not have ongoing ramifications, and that the tension in the north will evaporate. Yet should the dead-end within Lebanon’s political theater continue, we may see similar incidents in the near future.


פרסום ראשון: 09.14.09, 00:03
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