Tanks for nothing?
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Hebrew media review

Tanks for nothing?

Increased troops on the border and tanks moving north, but one Israel official is trying to downplay the tension

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Snow-covered tanks from the IDF's 401 armed brigade, in Northern Israel on Wednesday, January 7, 2015 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/FLASH90)
Snow-covered tanks from the IDF's 401 armed brigade, in Northern Israel on Wednesday, January 7, 2015 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/FLASH90)

The IDF mobilizes its forces in the north as the shockwaves from Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria continue to ripple across the Middle East. The Hebrew press reports on Israeli tanks being moved toward the Lebanese border following the deployment of Iron Dome batteries.

Despite the veil of silence cloaking the Israeli government, unnamed Israeli officials speak to the press and intimate concerns about the strike that killed an Iranian general, a senior Hezbollah commander and a number of the Lebanese group’s fighters.

Citing a Reuters report, Haaretz reports that an anonymous Israeli security official said Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi was not the target of the strike, and that Israeli intelligence believed there were only lower-ranking Hezbollah fighters on site at the time of the attack.

Yedioth Ahronoth calls the unintentional assassination of Allahdadi “the embarrassment” on its front page, and calls the aforementioned unnamed Israeli official’s comments an “unofficial apology” for killing the general. “Israeli officials interpreted the message as a necessary move aimed at preventing a war on the northern front, but if they are correct then it appears that it attests to a significant intelligence failure and that it was not known that there was a senior Iranian general in the convoy,” the paper reports.

Other unnamed Israeli officials tell Israel Hayom that the government believes that Hezbollah will retaliate against Israel and related targets abroad. Such targets include Jewish communities, Israeli diplomatic delegations and Israeli targets in the Golan and Galilee, the paper says. (One target Israel Hayom neglects to mention but which Yedioth Ahronoth headlines is Israel’s natural gas rigs in the Mediterranean.)

In an bizarre twist, the paper quotes “an official security source” saying Tuesday that “the State of Israel doesn’t respond to the incident in Syria, nor to publications about it which don’t come from qualified sources. Israel policy has been and remains to eliminate every attempted terror attack against it.” Yedioth Ahronoth offers up the same quote, calling it a move by the Israeli government to distance itself from the unofficial apology aimed at calming tensions with Iran.

On the northern front, Israel Hayom reports that the IDF is reinforcing its troops and deployed several units to the border with Lebanon, and to towns near the border, in light of the rising tensions. It says that the Iron Dome batteries which were reportedly deployed in the north remained on high alert in case of possible rocket fire by Hezbollah.

Yedioth Ahronoth reports that anybody driving up Israel’s main north-south artery, Route 6, saw long convoys of armored personnel carriers and tanks making their way north on trucks. It says that all of Israel’s nine Iron Dome batteries have been deployed, including in new locations that have recently been assessed. Despite the deployment of Israeli forces along the border to protect communities, the paper quotes one resident of a northern town whose fears aren’t assuaged.

“Once we feared infiltrations or (rocket) fire, but now it’s worse: we’re concerned about tunnels and kidnappings. A few months ago they canceled our security detail and only now, because of the situation, they’ve returned the soldiers,” Eliezer Biton, 63, of Avivim, tells the paper. “It’s a crime to save money at our expense and to cancel the security in towns such as ours.”

Israel Hayom calls the situation “silent tension,” which in light of the expression “calm before the storm” doesn’t augur well. It quotes Aviv Leshem, spokesperson for the Upper Galilee Regional Council saying that they’ve received no new security instructions from the IDF.

“Of course, in situations like this alertness goes up, and the residents are accustomed to it. We’ve taken notice of the readiness and raised awareness of IDF troops, but we haven’t seen a significant increase in the movement of IDF troops,” he says, apparently unaware of the tanks on the highway.

Haaretz quotes a Lebanese parliamentarian from Hezbollah telling local media that the Shiite terrorist group will retaliate strongly against Israel’s Syria airstrike, and that Israel’s operation intended to raise the morale of the fighters against the Assad regime and convey a double message to Hezbollah and Iran. He said that Hezbollah will take its time picking out a target and striking back.

“Hezbollah and its leadership have the smarts, the resources and the capability to respond accordingly, after taking into consideration the political-security situation of Lebanon and the region at large,” he said.

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