Hezbollah threatens retaliation over alleged IDF strike
Sources say revenge for killing of Jihad Mughniyeh and 5 others ‘unavoidable,’ but won’t be strong enough to spark a war
Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.
Sources in Hezbollah said on Monday that retaliation for an alleged Israeli airstrike that killed several of its members was inevitable, but would be restrained enough to not provoke a war.
The Lebanese daily As-Safir, which is identified with Hezbollah, cited sources close to the Shiite terror group as saying that it would choose a time and place to hit back, but would do so in a manner that wouldn’t cause an escalation in the conflict.
At least six Hezbollah members, including a senior commander, were killed in an Israeli helicopter strike in the Syrian Golan Heights on Sunday, according to sources close to the terror group.
Among the dead was Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of Imad Mughniyeh, a senior Hezbollah commander killed in Damascus in 2008, allegedly by Israel. Jihad Mughniyeh had been serving as the Shi’ite terrorist group’s Golan District commander, Western sources said.
The attack would “draw a painful and unexpected response, but we can assume that it will be controlled and beneath the level that could escalate into all-out war,” the Hezbollah sources told As-Safir, and recalled a roadside bomb attack in October 2014 that injured two IDF soldiers.
At the time, Hezbollah claimed the bombing was revenge for the killing of one of its members, Hussein Ali Haidar, in a September 5 explosion that Lebanese officials claimed was caused when Israel destroyed one of its own surveillance devices that had been uncovered inside Lebanon.
“Even though Hezbollah doesn’t intend to up the ante, the organization is planning for a worst-case scenario in which Israel decides to venture into Lebanon,” the Hezbollah sources were quoted as saying.
Meanwhile Ibrahim al-Amin, editor of the Al Akhbar newspaper, which is also closely associated with Hezbollah, published an editorial in which he “envisioned” a meticulously planned response rather than a knee-jerk reaction.
“Special considerations caused the enemy leadership [Israel] to take the decision to carry out the crime yesterday,” he wrote. Hezbollah’s response, he said, “should be an act that isn’t based on emotion, but on considerations that go down to the finest details, an action that demands quiet and consideration, without any connection to the emotional aspect.”
The strike against the Hezbollah activists also drew censure from the organization’s patron, Iran.
“We condemn all actions of the Zionist regime [of Israel] as well as all acts of terror,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted as saying by the semi-official Press TV news site on Monday.
Although there was no official conformation that Israel was behind the attack, an unnamed Israeli security source told AFP that an Israeli helicopter had conducted a strike against “terrorists” near Quneitra, on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.
Mughniyeh was killed along with five others as they patrolled near the Syrian town.
Reuters, citing a Western intelligence source, said that Mughniyeh was the commander of Hezbollah forces in the Golan Heights and Syria and that he had prepared numerous attacks on Israel, including some that were already carried out.
With the backing of Syria and Iran, Mughniyeh had overseen Hezbollah’s presence on the Golan Heights and planned significant assaults on Israel using artillery rockets, anti-tank weapons, improvised explosive devices along the border, anti-aircraft weapons, and cross-border incursions against IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians, Haaretz reported, citing Western intelligence sources.
As the son of slain Hezbollah terror chief Imad Mughniyeh, and with close personal connections to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and the commander of the the Iranian Republican Guard’s special forces unit, Qassem Soleimani, Jihad Mughniyeh was known as “the Prince” within the Lebanese terror organization.
Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a car bomb attack in Damascus in 2008 — an incident Hezbollah blamed on Israel — was wanted by Israel and the US for multiple deadly terror attacks that began in the 1980s. Among the high profile attacks was the bombing of the US marines barracks in Beirut in 1983 that killed nearly 300 servicemen, and the bombings, in 1992 and 1994 respectively, of the Israeli embassy and a Jewish center in the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires that killed over a hundred people.