DTuesday morning, the inhabitants of northern Israel were awakening in a new reality. For years, the military has waved and calmed the population. They feared that the Lebanese militia of Hezbollah could copy a strategy of attacking the Islamic radical Hamas in the Gaza Strip and dig tunnels in Israel to conduct a surprise attack. Again and again the citizens reported strange noises under their houses, taking this as proof of Hezbollah's activities.
But the Israeli army has always said that Hezbollah is not digging tunnels until Tuesday morning, when it suddenly broke into northern Israel and launched Northern Shield operation. Their mission: to destroy those attack tunnels whose existence has so far been denied and / or hidden. Meanwhile, the Israeli army spokesman says that since 2015 Hizbullah's underground activities have been perceived and persecuted.
The tunnels were built at a depth of 25 meters, penetrating up to 40 meters into Israeli territory. All the tunnels, their numbers are secret, they should be destroyed in the next few weeks. Israel speaks of a "serious violation" of its sovereignty.
For years, Hezbollah has been linked to the Syrian civil war, with thousands of militants in support of President Bashar al-Assad and his regime. The fight against the archenemy Israel was closed.
Similar priorities have been established by Iran, the main Islamic protector of Syria and Hezbollah. Tehran wanted to establish itself firmly after the war in Syria, and then from there open a new front against Israel.
Israel attacks Iran in Syria
But Iran's revolutionary guards have big problems with their strategy. Israel has carried out about 200 airstrikes against Iranian military installations in Syria in the last 18 months. The accidental bombardment of a Russian military machine by the Syrian air defense, which was actually an Israeli spy plane and caused the collapse of the Russian aircraft, led to a serious crisis between Moscow and Tel Aviv.
Russia has blamed Israel for the incident, and sometimes Israel has made fewer attacks in Syria. But according to Arab media reports, Israeli aircraft again bombed targets in Damascus and Russia was stopping. As a result, the Teheran Revolutionary Guards apparently turn their backs on Syria and focus their efforts on Lebanon.
The former head of military intelligence, general a. D. Amos Yadlin, said last week in a rare radio interview, what's behind these developments. "Yes, the Russians were angry with us (after the plane was shot down) and they gave us the cold shoulder," said the current director of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv.
"But they also sent strong signals to Iran that its military ambitions and missile factories in Syria are damaging efforts to stabilize Syria." But Moscow wants a stable Syria. The pressures of the Kremlin have now led Iran to change tactics: "They are transferring everything to Lebanon".
For over two years, Hezbollah has been the biggest concern of the Israeli military. The Shiite terrorist organization, which is largely funded by Iran, has become one of the most powerful military forces in the Middle East in recent years. He estimated about 25,000 men in arms, more than 30,000 reservists.
With the deployment in Syria, they have acquired an extraordinary military experience: Hezbollah fighters can no longer carry out single attacks, but coordinate large armed and aeronautical associations.
The Israeli missile arsenal is particularly feared by Hezbollah. The army estimates that the organization has between 120,000 and 180,000 missiles capable of hitting every point in Israel. In the last two years, Iran has presumably helped expand this arsenal.
According to Western intelligence agencies, the Revolutionary Guards have created underground weapons factories in Lebanon and Syria to provide Hezbollah missiles with improved navigation systems. This gives them a high level of precision. Hezbollah could overwhelm Israeli missile defense and paralyze the country.
The newly discovered tunnels are part of a sprawling system that Hezbollah built in Lebanon since 2006. It aims to compensate for the qualitative superiority of Israeli air and ground forces.
Hizbullah fighters can stand up in cement-reinforced bunkers for weeks, equipped with their own water and electricity supply, survive the air raids and, at the same time, launch missiles at Israel again and again.
The tunnels that led to Israel were part of Hezbollah's attack strategy. Hundreds of fighters were supposed to break into Israeli villages, take hostages or even conquer parts of northern Israel, as militia chief Hassan Nasrallah threatened years ago. Israel has decided to take action against these tunnels within its territory before they could be used.
Israel has repeatedly waged a war against terrorist organizations in Lebanon. The last gunfight in 2006 lasted 34 days and caused thousands of victims. The success of the Israeli strategy against Iran in Syria therefore poses a notorious dilemma for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Lebanon: how long will he see an enemy who has dedicated himself to the extermination of Israel being promoted there?
Netanyahu often defends preventive attacks, perhaps this time too. In fact, it seems dangerous to wait for Hezbollah to recover from the losses in the Syrian civil war and continue to improve and then, at its discretion, can choose the date of an attack. But an attack on Lebanon could cost Israel dearly – Hezbollah can already inflict massive damage on Israel and, on the international level, Netanyahu would be an aggressor.
Night meeting of Netanyahu and Pompey
In this context, the military action dramatically staged in northern Israel will likely increase diplomatic pressure on Lebanon to become Hizbullah's master. In recent months, the Israeli army has repeatedly published information on Iran's secret armament program in the land of the cedars and reports that arms factories are emerging in the middle of residential neighborhoods. This should deny the mullahs.
A possible escalation in Lebanon was also the subject of a meeting between Netanyahu and American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brussels on Monday night. The surprisingly organized meeting, in the presence of the head of Mossad and the military advisers, was a clear warning to Tehran that the Israeli-American alliance would resist.
It was also a signal for the European allies and the United Nations. Now they are called to exert pressure to finally contain Hezbollah's military activities in southern Lebanon, which violate several Security Council resolutions. Otherwise, as Netanyahu points out, it will be difficult to avoid an Israeli preventive attack and a third Lebanon war.