A Lebanese newspaper affiliated with the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia Hezbollah reported on Saturday that American officials have warned Beirut that Israel is planning to initiate a war against its neighbor to the north.
According to Al Akhbar, the Americans told the Lebanese “not to give Israel an excuse to start a war.”
The report stated that US officials were informed by their Israeli counterparts that Jerusalem is interested in igniting a war, particularly in light of Saudi Arabia’s strategic shift.
“Pressure needs to be applied on Hezbollah not to make any mistake that would lead to a replay of the events of 2006,” the newspaper quoted American sources as saying.
In 2006, Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war that came to be known as the Second Lebanon War. The conflagration was ignited when Hezbollah gunmen sneaked across the Israeli border and attacked an IDF convoy, taking two soldiers captive.
Israel retaliated by massive bombardment followed by a ground incursion into Lebanon, resulting in a four-week exchange of rocket and missile fire.
Scores of IDF soldiers and dozens of Israeli civilians died in the fighting, and over 1,000 Lebanese civilians were killed. Hundreds of Hezbollah fighters were also believed to have been killed.
According to Al Akhbar
, the Israelis feel emboldened by the Saudi government’s recent decision to cut aid to the Lebanese government and declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
Riyadh’s snubbing of Beirut has “whetted Israel’s appetite” for conflict with the Shi’ite militia that continues to pose a threat to the northern border, the report stated.
The newspaper also reported that a German intelligence official visited with the Hezbollah leadership in the southern Beirut neighborhood of Dahiya – the group’s stronghold – immediately following the killing of Samir Kuntar.
Kuntar was killed this past December by a rocket attack on a building in Damascus, where it is believed he was working as a commander with Hezbollah. Israel has not confirmed that it was behind the operation, though Hezbollah vowed revenge.
Kuntar was imprisoned by Israel after he and three others from the Palestine Liberation Front infiltrated Nahariya by sea in April 1979 and broke into the apartment of the Haran family, where they kidnapped the father, Danny, and his four-year-old daughter Einat. They brought the pair back to the beach and killed them. Haran's other daughters, Yael, age two, was accidentally smothered to death as she and her mother, Smadar, hid from the terrorists in the apartment's crawl space.
Israel released Kuntar, a Druse, in 2008 as part of a prisoner swap with Hezbollah and he is believed to have joined the group since. He was welcomed as a hero in Beirut and he married a Lebanese Shi'ite woman from a Hezbollah family.
The German official reportedly pleaded with Hezbollah not to retaliate against Israel for the Kuntar killing, fearing that the situation could spiral out of control.