By Gil Elan
On Sunday a small convoy of unmarked civilian vehicles traveling near the Israeli border on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights was destroyed by air-to-ground missiles.
According to eyewitnesses two drones were seen crossing from the Israeli side before the attack and returning afterward. Other reports claimed an Israeli attack helicopter fired two missiles at two vehicles, killing several Hezbollah and Iranian military personnel, including commanders. Here is what has been now been confirmed.
According to Hezbollah, the vehicles were attacked by missiles from Israeli aircraft and several Hezbollah senior commanders and fighters were killed, including 25-year-old Jihad Mughniyeh — son of Imad Mughniyeh, the legendary former Hezbollah chief of operations who was killed in Damascus in 2008, when the headrest in his car exploded. Hezbollah has always blamed Israel for the murder.
His son Jihad was being groomed by the Iranians and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nassralla to follow in his father’s footsteps. Just a few months ago Jihad was appointed commander of the Hezbollah forces on the Golan, and was preparing attacks against Israel.
Among the Iranian officers killed was Revolutionary Guard Corps General Mohammed Ali Allah Dadi. He was a senior expert on missile deployment and was sent by Iran to mentor Mughniyeh and work with him on building an Iranian missile infrastructure on the Golan Heights against Israel.
Both Iran and Hezbollah blame Israel for the attacks and promise dire retribution: “These martyrdoms proved the need to stick with jihad. The Zionists must await ruinous thunderbolts,” Revolutionary Guards’ chief General Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted Jan. 20 as saying by Fars news agency. This, Mohammad Ali Jafari said, will be “a new beginning point for the imminent collapse of the Zionist Regime.”
“The Revolutionary Guards will fight to the end of the Zionist regime. We will not rest easy until this epitome of vice is totally deleted from the region’s geopolitics.”
While Israel has officially neither confirmed nor denied that it was responsible, in an interview this week with Reuters, a “senior Israeli security source” left little doubt. The Israeli source confirmed that Israel carried out the strike. Asked if Israel expected Iranian or Hezbollah retaliation, the source said: “They are almost certain to respond. We are anticipating that.”
“We did not expect the outcome in terms of the stature of those killed — certainly not the Iranian general,” the source went on to say. “We thought we were hitting an enemy field unit that was on its way to carry out an attack on us at the frontier fence.” “We got the alert, we spotted the vehicle, identified it was an enemy vehicle and took the shot. We saw this as a limited tactical operation.”
Troops and civilians in northern Israel are on heightened alert. Roads near the border have been closed as convoys of artillery and tank units can be seen heading north. Iron Dome rocket interceptor units have been moved from the center and deployed near the Syrian border.
But will this evolve into a full-scale “Third Lebanon War”? I doubt it. Iran and Hezbollah have too much to lose and nothing to gain. The estimated 150,000 medium and long range heavy missiles that Iran today controls in Lebanon and that can certainly do serious, if not catastrophic damage to Israel are the only insurance policy it has left against an Israeli attack on its nuclear weapons program.
Israel has made it clear that they will be immediately destroyed during the first hours of the next war.
Yes — Iran and Hezbollah will without a doubt try to avenge Sunday’s attack, but it will probably be against Israeli and Jewish targets overseas, preferably in the U.S. were they get the added bonus of humiliating the “Great Satan.”
Agree or disagree, that’s my opinion.
Lt. Col. (IDF res) Gil Elan is President and CEO of the Southwest Jewish Congress, and a Middle East analyst. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Upcoming briefings and SWJC events are listed at: www.swjc.org. DISCLAIMER: Opinions are the writer’s, and do not represent SWJC directors, officers or members.