Generals say Israel faces greatest existential threat since establishment of the state.
Israel has vowed a “disproportionate” response after two IDF soldiers were killed and seven wounded by an anti-tank missile fired by Hezbollah in the Har Dov area near the Lebanon border.
The apparent attack follows the killing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi during an Israeli airstrike in the Golan Heights area of Syria. The January 18 attack also killed six members of Hezbollah.
On Monday, Iran warned of a response to the attack that killed Allahdadi.
“We told the Americans that the leaders of the Zionist regime should await the consequences of their act,” Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told IRNA. He said Israel had “crossed our red lines.”
“We absolutely condemn any such threats that come in any form,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki responded after the message was delivered to the United States through the Swiss embassy. The U.S. and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since the Iranian revolution in 1979.
Following the attack on the IDF along the border, mortars hit an Israeli military position on Mt. Hermon. The mortar attack resulted in a closure of the site and the evacuation of civilians from a nearby ski resort, according to the BBC.
Israel then reportedly hit Hezbollah operational positions along the border. Lebanese officials said at least 50 shells were fired into the villages of Majidiyeh, Abbasiyeh and Kfar Chouba near the Shebaa Farms area.
The Lebanese villages were targeted “to send a message to the Syrian regime that we view it responsible for what occurs on its territory and that there is a price to pay for allowing Hezbollah to use your positions,” IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner told CNN.
The Israeli response killed a Spanish UNIFIL member in Ghajar, a village on the Israel-Lebanon frontier.
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL, was established by the United Nations following the adoption of Security Council Resolution 425 and 426 in 1978 to confirm Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman contacted his counterpart in Spain to convey Israel’s condolences for the death.
Lieberman blamed Hezbollah for the attack and also said Israel blames the Lebanese government for any attack initiated from its territory. He also said Israel will respond in a “forceful and disproportionate manner” to the retaliation for the killing of Amirabdollahian.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country is prepared to launch a forceful response to the attacks.
“At this moment, the IDF is responding to events in the north. To everyone who is trying to challenge us at the northern border, I recommend that they look what happened not far away from the city of Sderot, in Gaza: Hamas took its hardest hit since its formation. And the IDF is prepared to act strongly on all fronts,” Netanyahu said.
Israel military action in the Gaza in response to crude rocket attacks by Hamas resulted in the death of more than 2,100 Palestinians during Operation Protective Edge conducted last summer. 66 Israeli soldiers and seven civilians in Israel also died.
War Preparations Predate Latest Skirmish
On January 20, Major General Eyal Ben Reuven, a former deputy head in the Israeli Defense Forces, said Israeli intelligence has determined Iran and Hezbollah are planning to attack Israel in the northern Galilee region of the country.
On January 22, a Jewish newspaper, Hamodia, reported on a massive military buildup:
The IDF continued its massive buildup in the north, even though it was decided to grant Shabbos leave for soldiers who had initially been slated to stay on duty throughout. Military sources indicated, however, that this did not mean a reduction in the level of readiness.
On the contrary, they expect the present high alert level to continue for a prolonged period. Therefore, it was decided to permit some soldiers to go home, and in the coming weeks to allow others to go home.
Military traffic on roads leading north was heavy all through Thursday afternoon, as reinforcements streamed to the border area.
A significant number of the troops are being posted within residential communities in the north, in order to bolster the general feeling of security. Others are concentrating in military bases and strategic points in the Golan.
According to Al-Monitor’s “Israel Pulse,” Israel faces an existential threat not experienced since the establishment of the Jewish state in October, 1947. The newspaper cited senior IDF officers, quoted by Arutz Sheva, who said Hezbollah will attempt to capture Israeli territory.
“According to Israeli sources, Hezbollah is training its commando forces to make a surprise incursion into Israel, take over a community (such as a kibbutz or a moshav — a cooperative community — or even a small town like Shlomi). It will try to inflict as much damage as possible and hold out for as long as possible, taking hostages that will allow its troops to pull back safely home into Lebanon,” writes Ben Caspit for Al-Monitor.
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