Even with coronavirus, it's cat and mouse for Israel with Hezbollah

Nevertheless neither side will let their deterrence against the other fade and will continue with the war of warnings.

Hezbollah members carry mock missile during procession held to celebrate Ashura in south Lebanon, 2009 (photo credit: ALI HASHISHO/REUTERS)
Hezbollah members carry mock missile during procession held to celebrate Ashura in south Lebanon, 2009
(photo credit: ALI HASHISHO/REUTERS)
It’s almost as if Israel and Hezbollah both don’t want to spiral into a war during the deadly coronavirus pandemic, choosing instead to send warnings to each other: We are watching you.
It “started” on Wednesday when a Jeep Cherokee on the Syrian-Lebanese border carrying Hezbollah operatives and equipment was targeted in drone strikes blamed on the IDF. Two days later, Hezbollah sabotaged the border fence between the two countries in three different locations over two dozen kilometers apart from each other.
But nobody was killed in the drone strike and no operative crossed into Israeli territory.
A video of the strike in Syria showed a tactic that Israel usually reserves for targets such as multi-story buildings known as “knocking on the roof.” According to reports, the drone first fired a warning shot near the vehicle, allowing its occupants to jump from it and find safety. But in the two-minute video, the operatives are seen running back and forth from the vehicle, taking bags of equipment with them.
They even had time to close the door before the second missile struck, destroying the car and all the equipment that remained inside.
The reports of what the strike was targeting differs. Some say it was Mustafa Munigyeh, the son of Imad Munigyeh who was assassinated in an alleged Israeli-American operation some 10 years ago. Others say the target was weapons or components designed to upgrade Hezbollah’s missile arsenal into precision weaponry.
Whichever the target was, it was important enough for Hezbollah to respond.
Two days later, on Friday night, the IDF received indications from the security fence: first from Meiss el Jabal not far from the community of Menara, then from Metula and then a third near the community of Avivim, where last September Hezbollah fired an anti-tank missile (ATM) towards an IDF ambulance. Troops fired flares into the air and began scouring the areas for any possible Hezbollah infiltration.
While they didn’t find anyone, several suspicious plastic bags and a placard with pictures of Qassem Soleimani, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Imad Mughniyeh with the word "Revenge" in Arabic and Persian were found.
The message of the coordinated sabotage operation by the Lebanese terror group was clear: Hezbollah will not remain silent when it’s operatives are targeted.
Last September when Hezbollah fired the ATM, it was in response to a drone strike which killed two Hezbollah operatives planning a drone attack against targets in northern Israel. That time, Hezbollah aimed to kill IDF troops. No one was killed in the attack but it led to a spike in tensions not seen in years.
It was an eye for an eye.
This time, since no one was killed, Hezbollah responded in a way that they thought was fair: You destroy our equipment, we will destroy yours. You kill our operatives, we will aim to kill your troops.
Israel has made it clear that it will continue to enforce its red lines in the North: preventing Hezbollah from obtaining game-changing precision missiles, preventing Iran and its proxies from entrenching on the Golan Heights and removing Iran from Syria.
Like in September, an alleged Israeli strike in Syria led to a response from Lebanon. But unlike that event, both Hezbollah and the IDF are both investing a large amount of troops and energy to fight the pandemic which has swept the globe.
Nevertheless, neither side will let their deterrence against the other fade, but will continue with the war of warnings.