Revenge is best served no matter what: 7 things to know for August 28
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Israel media review

Revenge is best served no matter what: 7 things to know for August 28

As the mystery surrounding the Beirut dronesplosion grows, Hezbollah plots its limited revenge, trying to thread the line between sparking a war and looking like wusses

A picture taken on August 26, 2019, near the northern Israeli moshav of Avivim shows a Hezbollah flag in the Lebanon village of Aitaroun. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)
A picture taken on August 26, 2019, near the northern Israeli moshav of Avivim shows a Hezbollah flag in the Lebanon village of Aitaroun. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

1. Crate job: A report in the Times of London said that the site allegedly targeted by drones piloted by Israel in Beirut early Sunday was actually a Hezbollah rocket fuel development office.

  • According to the report, what Israel was targeting in the sixth-story office said to be a Hezbollah media center was actually two crates that held materials for a Hezbollah program to turn its stock of simple rockets into precision-guided missiles.
  • The Times report, which cited only Western officials, was followed by reports in Hebrew media later Tuesday that said the attack had managed to set back Hezbollah’s advanced missile program back significantly, indicating that the source for the info is in fact Israeli.
  • Yedioth Ahronoth crows on its front page about “the precision strike on Nasrallah’s secret factory,” though the building was not a factory and one might question whether a consumer-grade quadcopter fitted with explosives flown into a building is a “precision strike.”
  • “The attack proves that the ambitious plan to transfer weapons-making ability to Lebanon, rather than smuggling them from Iran via Syria and risking Israeli attacks, has been stopped in its tracks. At least for now,” the paper’s Yossi Yehoshua offers, without offering any actual proof.

2. Mixer and mash: According to the reports in Hebrew media, which were unsourced, the main target was a specialized industrial mixer necessary for the creation of the solid fuel used in long-range missiles.

  • As my colleague Judah Ari Gross notes, “This type of device — known as a vertical planetary mixer — is used around the world in militaries and space programs to produce solid fuels. Due to the delicate nature of this work, these machines must be incredibly precise and are therefore difficult to manufacture. There was only one such machine known to exist inside Lebanon.”
  • According to Channel 13 news, the planetary mixer targeted in the Beirut strike had recently been flown into Lebanon from Iran. It was being held temporarily in Dahiyeh before being transferred to the factory where the actual work on the precision missile project was being performed.
  • The damage to the mixer rendered it unusable and is believed to have set back this aspect of Hezbollah’s precision missile program by at least a year.
  • Haaretz’s Amos Harel also reports the program was set back, but says it is because of damage to a controller, which he reports was more vital than the mixer: “The main blow was to the machine’s control panel, which is separate from the mixer itself. Replacing the controller, an expensive bit of electronics manufactured in Iran, will likely take a long time. Were the mixer to become operational, it could have enabled Hezbollah to set up a production line capable of turning out rather large quantities of precision-guided long-range missiles.”

3. The secret life of drones: One might wonder why Israel would use clumsy drone-bombs to take out such a sensitive target.

  • ToI’s Avi Issacharoff writes that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is lying about the nature of the drones and says they were sent to Beirut to tell the terror group … something.
  • “Every child in Dahiyeh knows that if Israel were involved in this incident, there was certainly no intention to blow up or assassinate but rather to convey a message,” he writes. “Even if we believe for a moment the narrative Nasrallah advanced in his speech, where he described how one of these drones flew at such a low altitude that people in the neighborhood were able to bring it down by throwing stones at it, does anybody in the Middle East who’s ever encountered an Israeli drone find that description credible?”
  • On Twitter, Issacharoff points to an article about an Israeli development allowing it to hijack foreign drones and writes cryptically, “Now use your imagination to think about what’s been going on recently…”
  • Yedioth surmises that the leak to the UK Times about the drone being used to blow up the rocket mixer was meant to send a less threatening message that “we didn’t kill any Hezbollah people, giving Nasrallah an excuse to not respond.”
  • Walla’s Amir Bohbot reports that Nasrallah also has an excuse to not avenge the two Hezbollah members killed in the strike on the Quds Force drone plot in Syria: They weren’t there for his group.
  • According to Bohbot, who does not cite a source, Nasrallah found out “during his speech” on Sunday that the two people killed were actually just Lebanese Shiites who had been sent to sit on the bench for the Quds forces but not fight. “In other words [Quds force commander] Qassem Soleimani broke his word to Nasrallah and acted behind his back when he used the two operatives in an operation against Israel.”

4. War, what is it good for? With Israel gearing up for a possible reprisal, Nasrallah deputy Naim Qassem warns Tuesday of a “surprise” attack in the coming days, in an interview with Russian channel RT Arabic.

  • Many media outlets, though, latch on to him downplaying fears of war, following the lead of Reuters, which reports on his interview with RT Arabic.
  • Reuters also quotes sources in Hezbollah saying that the response “is being arranged in a way which wouldn’t lead to a war.”
  • “The direction now is for a calculated strike, but how matters develop, that’s another thing,” the source is quoted saying.
  • Many in Israel seem to regard a response as a given, even after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Nasrallah to take a chill pill, which shockingly may not have worked.
  • “We are on a path of deterioration. There is a higher chance for a Hezbollah response, which will lead to an Israeli response,” former deputy national security adviser Eran Etzion tells Xinhua.

5. What Nasrallah wants is not what Nasrallah needs: Just because war is a bad idea does not mean Nasrallah is not under pressure to hit back.

  • “Hezbollah can’t ignore Israeli drone attack: Qassem,” reads a headline in Lebanon’s Daily Star.
  • “Zionists Not to Sleep Well from Now On,” reads a headline in Iran’s Fars news, quoting an “Arab analyst.”
  • Israel Hayom’s Oded Granot writes that Hezbollah has no interest in launching a war, with its coffers depleted and still recovering from fighting in Syria. But given the high profile target, the fact that the attack was so public and the fact that Israel attacked in both Syria and allegedly, Lebanon, he has to do something.
  • “Nasrallah is counting on the fact that Israel did not respond to an attack on IDF troops in January 2015, which came after six Hezbollah operatives were killed on the Golan Heights. It might try to recreate that scenario and attack IDF troops along the border, as it hinted it might do,” he writes. “But there are no guarantees that this is how it will play out this time, and no one can ensure that the ‘calculated strike’ won’t get out of control and that a clash with Hezbollah won’t escalate into a war.”
  • On the other side, a report in Hezbollah propaganda outfit Tansikeya describes how Israeli soldiers “seem exhausted” and abandoned the border out of fear of a reprisal attack. “In contrast to the usual situation, the soldiers cleared the military road adjacent to the fence and left the border area open to lenses of photographers and [Lebanese] citizens, who came to picnic on Adiasseh hill to monitor the occupied side and enjoy the quiet.”
  • A report by Bellingcat looks at how the group manages to skirt social media rules against spreading terrorist propaganda online.

6. Bombing the bombers: While Israel is waiting for the surprise, attention shifted briefly Tuesday and Wednesday to southern Israel and Gaza after a sudden flareup of mysterious violence.

  • Mortars were fired at Israel, seemingly out of the blue, Tuesday, but even stranger is a series of blasts at a Hamas checkpoint inside the Strip in which three Hamas policemen were killed.
  • An unnamed security source tells the BBC that the two explosions that hit police checkpoints near Gaza City on Tuesday evening were the result of suicide bombings carried out by IS and that one of the attackers had previously been detained by Hamas.
  • Makor Rishon calls the attack “Hamas’s worst nightmare,” and notes that the terror group was attempting to blame it on Israel and conceal the identity of those behind the bombings.
  • Ynet reports on a “wave of arrests of Salafis” in the Strip following the bombing.
  • According to al-Jazeera, Gaza is in a “state of alert,” though Hamas chief Ismail Haniya is quoted saying Gaza can “absorb” such incidents.

7. Finagling Feiglin: Elections? Yes, those are still happening.

  • On Wednesday, political juggernaut turned human “Price is Right” losing horn Moshe Feiglin proves he can still play the wildcard, telling the media he is considering dropping out of the race is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives him a raft prizes in sweetheart deal.
  • The announcement comes days after Feiglin’s Zehut and the Otzma Yehudit party denied they were considering entertaining Likud’s overtures to drop out.
  • “I met with Netanyahu about medical cannabis reform. If we can come to an agreement, I will drop out and get a government spot,” he’s quoted telling Army Radio.
  • But the pair may be getting too high on their own supply. Speaking to ToI’s Raoul Wootliff, attorney Eitan Haberman, a former Likud lawyer who now pushes pencils for Yisrael Beytenu, says the offer may in fact be election fraud and bribery that, if implemented, could force a dramatic nationwide revote.
  • “There is clear and explicit legal precedent ruling that this is illegal,” Haberman says. “[Nahariya mayor Ron] Fromer went to prison for this and an entire municipal election was redone.”
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