A Shi'ite cleric wearing military uniform with Hezbollah members..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran instructed Hezbollah not to respond to reported Israel Air Force strikes last week because it wants to focus on finalizing the nuclear deal with world powers, a Saudi newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Tehran does not want an escalation that could risk the release of funds that will flow in from frozen assets as sanctions relief kicks in as the deal reached last month is finalized, sources told the Al-Watan newspaper.
The unconfirmed report could well be false and part of the media battle going on between Sunni states such as Saudi Arabia and the Iranian Shi’ite axis.
Iran will get access to more than $100 billion of assets frozen abroad, US officials say, equivalent to a quarter of its annual output. The inflow may start around the end of this year, after Tehran is certified in compliance with the deal.
The alleged Israel Air Force drone attack last week struck a vehicle on the outskirts of the Syrian Druse village of Hader.
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The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that five people were killed in the attack – two members of Hezbollah and three from the Syrian National Defense Forces, a pro-government militia.
The observatory added that the cell was led and supervised by Samir Kuntar, who was traded by Israel in 2008 in exchange for the bodies of two soldiers killed by Hezbollah in 2006.
A second strike targeted a Lebanese military installation near the Syrian border, wounding six, according to Arab media reports.
Other sources told the Saudi paper that the Shi’ite group aims to cover up its inability to protect its fighters in Syria, particularly from Israeli attacks.
In January, Israel reportedly carried out a helicopter attack in Quneitra province that killed a top Iranian Revolutionary Guard general and several Hezbollah members, including Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of the group’s late military commander.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah recently arrested a Lebanese engineer who it claims is an Israeli spy and turned him over to Lebanese authorities, a security source told the Lebanese Daily Star newspaper on Wednesday.
He was recruited and trained in Europe by Israelis, according to the source.Yaakov Lappin and Reuters contributed to this report.