1. Who said summer in Israel is boring? Each week seems to bring with it new, interesting and potentially deadly challenges, and this week is no different.
- “Five fronts,” reads the top headline on daily Yedioth Ahronoth, a day after Israel took out what it says was an Iranian plot to send kamikaze drones into Israel; mysterious drones exploded in Beirut, prompting a Hezbollah vow of revenge; rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza; a search continues for terrorists behind a deadly bombing in the West Bank; and Israeli planes are accused of bombing pro-Iranian forces in Iraq. Whew.
- Add to that reports Monday morning in the Arab press that Israeli aircraft carried out an airstrike on a base belonging to a Palestinian terrorist group deep inside Lebanon.
- Not to worry though. “The army knows how to deal with several fronts at the same time. Perhaps the political leadership has trouble keeping focus, but there’s no such problem among the army’s General Staff,” former general Giora Eiland writes in Yedioth.
- Lest anyone fear yet another front opening up with Moscow, Israel Hayom quotes expert Eran Lerman saying that the Kremlin is actually happy with Israel taking out Iranians: “Putin would prefer the Iranian leave Syria, but he can’t remove them himself.”
- Danger remains high, though. “Nobody wants war, but it can come at any time,” former national security adviser Jacob Nagel tells Army Radio.
- “Experience shows that wars of attrition tend to get messy, and that even the most pummeled enemy can develop a response to Israeli capabilities,” Haaretz’s lead editorial warns.
2. The war’s already here: Many describe Israel as already at war against Iran in some fashion.
- “The confliction zone between Israel and Iran is growing and widening,” reads the top headline in broadsheet Haaretz.
- “Despite its sworn enmity of the Jewish state for nearly four decades, the Islamic revolutionary leadership of Iran avoided direct military confrontation with Israel; instead, it used its various proxies,” the paper’s Anshel Pfeffer writes. “The strategic shift from February 2018, toward active participation of IRGC’s al-Quds Force in the attacks, is a result of several factors, some springing from internal Iranian politics and the desire to score propaganda victories. Had some of the drones succeeded in targeting Israel, the damage would have been relatively minor, as they can only carry a few kilograms of explosives. But the effect on both Israeli and Iranian public consciousness would have been enormous.”
- “Israel is now in the middle of a long effort to stop the Iranians from building their independent war machine in Syria. They have one in Lebanon, controlled by Hezbollah, and they want to build an independent one in Syria which will be controlled by Iran directly,” former national security adviser Yaakov Amidror tells The Los Angeles Times.
- In Israel Hayom, Oded Granot surmises that Israel’s ability to attack Iranians in Iraq is unsettling Quds Force head Qassem Soleimani, the man seen as behind the failed drone plot.
- “Israel is successfully striking inside a country that shares a border with Iran, benefits from the blind eye being turned by the United States and Iraqi government, and is inflicting heavy casualties on the militias tasked with fighting American forces stationed in Iraq if tensions between Tehran and Washington boil over into open conflict.”
3. From the north come threats: Soleimani has remained mostly quiet, but Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah issued a series of threats Sunday night, vowing revenge for Israel’s killing of members of the group.
“The defense establishment takes Hezbollah’s threats seriously,” Haaretz’s Amos Harel writes, noting previous successful Hezbollah attacks on soldiers in the north.
- Yedioth’s Shimrit Meir writes that many Israelis’ reaction to Nasrallah’s threats will be “‘Nu, Mr. Screamy Pants, we’re still waiting for the vengeance you promised for the killing of Imad Mughniyeh in 2008.’ But the truth is we are very worried.”
- Yoav Limor in Israel Hayom counsels not taking Nasrallah’s threats lightly. “Iran and its emissaries will search for a way to deliver a blow to Israel in order to exact revenge for the humiliation they have suffered.”
4. Domesticated terror: But some note that just because Nasrallah can attack doesn’t necessarily mean he will, with many non-Hezbollah supporters in Lebanon wary of being dragged into prolonged conflict.
- “The fact that Hezbollah was criticized [within Lebanon] within hours of its claims that Israel had attacked its media headquarters in Beirut is significant,” Avi Issacharoff writes for ToI. “Less than 12 hours after Hezbollah began wailing about the attack and accusing Israel of responsibility, various forces in Lebanon clearly recognized that a Hezbollah response risks pushing the two sides to war.”
- Alon Ben-David writes for Channel 13 that “Nasrallah is mulling his options, looking for a response that will hurt Israel but not drag Lebanon into a war on its … border.”
5. Cry for help: In Israel Hayom, Ronen Cohen postulates that while Israel should not let its guard down, Nasrallah’s threat may be part of a cry for help “from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and its foreign arm, the Quds Force – sensing they have become increasingly vulnerable, transparent and predictable. Israel’s intelligence agencies and air force are proving daily that these forces, cunning as they may be, will be exposed and hit.”
- Channel 13 news reports that the IDF sees Nasrallah’s speech “as a sign that he is under pressure, but they also understand that he is a bitter enemy who cannot be discounted and the next while in the north will be tense.”
- Rounding up various reactions to the reported Israeli aggression, Naharnet quotes a good amount of squabbling among Lebanese politicians, including pro-Hezbollah lawmaker Jamil al-Sayyed, who “took a swipe at Prime Minister Saad Hariri for saying that the government will shoulder its responsibilities towards the incident.”
- “How will the government manage to shoulder its responsibilities towards an Israeli attack after it drowned in the teacup of Qabrshmoun’s incident?!! War with binoculars is easy,” he’s quoted saying, referring to an incident last month in which partisans of one party opened fire on a convoy carrying a minister from another party, killing two.
- Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Front may also be in trouble. Former US Army Col. David Witty flags on Twitter an article pointing to increasing instability within the group following reported Israeli strikes on their bases.
Iraqi local newspaper says there is a soft coup occurring in Iraqi PMF (Hashd) against Chairman Fayyadh following contradicting PMF statements on who is responsible for attacks on PMF bases. https://t.co/hwK1TqMfuQ
— David M. Witty (@DavidMWitty1) August 25, 2019
6. Iran in Gaza: Sunday night’s rocket attacks are seen as generally linked to Iran as well, with the IDF pointing a finger at Islamic Jihad.
- In an Arabic-language statement, Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun — known formally as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories — tells Gazans that the group is trying to ignite a war on Iran’s behalf, and Gazans will end up paying the price.
- “Islamic Jihad, in the service of Iran, is causing destabilization again and again and harming the security of the area,” he says in an Arabic-language video, according to a translation provided by his office . “You are the ones who will suffer the consequences.”
- Two of the rockets were shot down by the Iron Dome, but one building in Sderot still suffered damage. Former defense minister and current Labor leader Amir Peretz may no longer have a stache, but he knows where Iron Domes will be stashed in case of war. telling Army Radio that residents should not count on the anti-missile system protecting them.
- “Some of the batteries now covering civilians will be moved to protect sensitive sites” he says.
7. The concert was a blast: While Israel cut fuel supplies to Gaza, most Israeli reports are mostly concerned with the terror felt by Israelis who had to run for cover while at an open-air music festival in Sderot.
- The terror of the moment was caught on video.
החיים עצמם, שדרות הערב pic.twitter.com/CTVyYjwBLH
— רועי שרון Roy Sharon (@roysharon11) August 25, 2019
- “It could have been a disaster,” Mayor Alon Davidi, who was at the concert, tells Radio 103.
- “We thought it was fireworks, but then people started to yell, it’s not fireworks,” one festival-goer tells Yedioth Ahronoth. “Parents took cover on the ground, kids got lost, police ran to the gates to open them, people trampled each other. Everyone was crying. We heard kids screaming. People ran in every direction, not knowing where to go.”
- “It was crazy,” another tells Israel Hayom. “So crazy scary.”