Last night, Israeli war planes are said to have attacked targets in eastern Lebanon. Sounds like the start of a new Arab-Israeli conflict, doesn’t it?
Well, it’s extraordinary to say it, but it probably won’t be. A Lebanese security source said that four rockets hit an arms shipment belonging to the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.
Israel refused to comment on the reports. Hezbollah, meanwhile, said that there had been no airstrikes ‘on Lebanese territory’.
The confusion reflects the public and private priorities of the forces involved. Israel wants to make sure that Hezbollah in South Lebanon doesn’t get its hands on what Israel calls ‘game-changing weapons’ – sophisticated missile systems which likely have their origins in Russia or Iran.
Israel is thought to have carried out at least six raids on weapons shipments inside Syria last year, as they made their way across territory held by the forces of President Assad, a great ally of Hezbollah.
Hezbollah is no doubt fuming at the loss of assets, and possibly its men, but it has never confirmed or complained about any of the air strikes. That’s because if it did, as the self-styled defender of Lebanon and sworn enemy of Israel, it would have to do something about them.
Right now, Hezbollah has quite enough on its plate fighting to prop up Assad in Syria, so going to war with Israel would not be a wise move. In turn, Israel won’t confirm the strikes, because if it did, that would force Hezbollah to act.
It’s a strange consequence of the Syrian civil war that one country can carry out airstrikes on another, and not only is nothing done about it, but nobody even talks about it, on either side.