At the end of February, Hezbollah broadcast its most direct threat to Israel in years via the terror organization’s Al-Manar TV station.
“This aggression won’t stand without a response,” the group said, referring to a reported Israel Air Force strike on a Hezbollah base in east Lebanon, allegedly targeting advanced weapons that arrived from Syria.
Since that threat, terrorists have carried out three attacks on the IDF on the Lebanese and Syrian borders in as many weeks, including Tuesday’s border bombing. One would have to be a believer of chance to assume that this is a coincidence.
That the IDF targeted Syrian army posts in retaliation on Tuesday, and that security sources described the posts as “being affiliated with those who planted the bomb,” is a strong signal that Israel believes Hezbollah is behind the latest attack.
Hezbollah and Assad loyalist military forces work hand in hand in their bloody campaign to rescue the Syrian regime, and the IDF’s artillery strike can be seen as a punishment and a warning to the regime for its cooperation with Hezbollah terrorism on its border with Israel.
For months, Israeli intelligence has been searching for signs of Hezbollah cells on the Syrian border. The search has been sparked by the fact that Hezbollah can now use Syria as a springboard for low signature attacks, in which it would prefer not to take the credit, as opposed to attacks from Lebanon, which would be far harder for Hezbollah to distance itself from.
Hezbollah may be the prime suspect, but it is not the only one. Southern Syria is filled with jihadi fighters that belong to growing radical organizations, such as al-Qaida’s Al Nusra Front and its rival, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
These organizations would be pleased to turn their guns on Israel, in line with their fanatical ideology, but their motivation for doing so now seems lower than that of Hezbollah, in light of their fulltime armed struggle against the Assad regime.
Hezbollah, by contrast, has openly stated that it has high motivation to attack Israel at this time, though it likely wishes to do this without provoking a large-scale conflict, which would expose it to devastating Israeli firepower.
The fact that terrorists have been able to sneak up on northern borders undetected and plant explosives is a warning signal that will likely prompt the IDF to further enhance border security measures.
On the Syrian border, the IDF’s Combat Intelligence Corps has already created a multi-sensory system called MARS that feeds control rooms with signals from radars, thermal cameras and other classified devices, planted along a new border fence.
The system should detect unwanted movement near the frontier and allow controllers to scramble forces to suspicious activity.
Combat Intelligence Collection units are in the field at the border at all times, some in camouflage, scanning for trouble.
A number of the units will soon be equipped with vehicles such as the Granite, which can deploy quickly to an area and raise a robotic arm out of its roof carrying a variety of electro-optical sensors, including radars and high resolution cameras for day and nighttime surveillance.
In the coming months, the Tamnun (Octopus), a mobile command and control system that is carried by a soldier in a backpack, will also come into service. The Tamnun shows the locations of IDF and enemy forces.
These surveillance measures and the ability to direct accurate firepower from artillery, tanks and the air force, will be crucial in ensuring that the next border attack fails.
That in turn will allow the IDF to swiftly neutralize tactical incidents before they can snowball into wider, strategic security escalations.