January 29/15

Bible Quotation For Today/Jonah Goes to Nineveh  & Its people repent
Jonah 03/01-10: "Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time:  “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. 4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”  The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.  This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened."

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 28-29/15
Israel must think hard about its response to latest Hezbollah attack/Ron Ben-Yishai/Ynetnews/January 28/15
In South Lebanon and Dahiyeh, festivity and fear after Hezbollah strike/Ana Maria Luca & Alex Rowell/Lebanon Now/January 28-29/15
Ten reasons Hezbollah should be worried/Nicholas Saidel/Now Lebanon/January 28/15
What did Hezbollah accomplish by attacking Israel/Hanin Ghaddar/Lebanon Now/
January 28/15
Netanyahu: Iran denies Holocaust while it plots genocide against us/
By TOVAH LAZAROFF/J.Post/January 28/15

Lebanese Related News published on January 28-29/15
Presidential election in Lebanon postponed to Feb. 18
International community must restrain Israel: Lebanon PM
Israel-Hezbollah engagements since 2006
Tensions in the North: Not war – yet
Netanyahu blames Iran for northern border attack
UNIFIL peacekeeper killed in south Lebanon clash
Hezbollah to Israel: Attack is adequate retaliation for Syria strike
Two Israeli soldiers killed, 7 injured by Hizballah fire from Mt. Dov on unarmored IDF command vehicle. The IDF hit back
Hizballah attack targeted IDF commanders on an inspection tour of northern border security
Israel suspends hunt for 'Hezbollah attack tunnels'
Assad, Lebanon to blame for Hezbollah border attack on IDF soldiers, Netanyahu says
US says Hezbollah "in blatant violation" of UN resolutions
New details emerge: At least 5 Kornet missiles fired in Hezbollah ambush of IDF soldiers
Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups praise Hezbollah attack
Hezbollah faces internal criticism in Lebanon
Geagea Slams Hizbullah's Shebaa Attack as Jumblat Warns of 'Turbulent Phase'
Spain blames Israel for death of peacekeeper
Timeline of major Hezbollah operations since 1982
Southerners wary but resolute in wake of ambush
Ball in Israel’s court after Hezbollah attack
Lebanon in King Salman’s heart: Hariri
Shebaa's Attack/Don’t invite disaster
Arabi Urges Security Council to 'Immediately' Intervene to End Border Escalation
Mustaqbal: No Side Has the Right to Usurp Govt.'s Decisions on War and Peace
Assir to become ISIS emir in Lebanon: report

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 28-29/15
Israeli jets hit Syrian army posts in Golan Heights
On Iran, Congress plays its hand with a deadline of its own
Israeli Army strikes targets in Syria; sirens blare in northern Golan
African Union: No Military Solution to Libyan Crisis
Kobane in Ruins after Kurds Drive Out IS
U.N. Aid Effort Struggling to Reach Millions in Syria
IS Suffers 'Devastating' Blows but Biggest Fighting still ahead
Women Joining IS Militants 'Cheerleaders, Not Victims'
Huthis Block Fresh Protest in Sanaa
Jordan Offers to Free Jihadist in Exchange for Pilot
Bahrain Opposition Chief Rejects Charges as Trial Opens

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Presidential election in Lebanon postponed to Feb. 18
The Daily Star/Jan. 29, 2015 /BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri Wednesday postponed a presidential election session to Feb. 18 after lawmakers botched an 18th attempt to elect a new head of state due to lack of consensus.Lebanon has been without a president since May when Michel Sleiman’s term ended with MPs failing to elect a successor. Lawmakers from the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition have boycotted the election sessions. Quorum was met during the first legislative session to elect a president in April, but no candidate received enough votes to win.

International community must restrain Israel: Lebanon PM
The Daily Star/Jan. 28, 2015 /BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam Wednesday called on the international community to restrain Israel from carrying out attacks against Lebanon, stressing his government was committed to U.N. Resolution 1701.
In a statement released hours after Hezbollah’s deadly ambush on an Israeli military convoy in an occupied region of south Lebanon that triggered heavy Israeli shelling, Salam cautioned that “Israeli escalation in the border area could open the door to dangerous possibilities which will not serve peace and stability in the region.”“Lebanon places the international community in front of their responsibilities and urges them to restrain Israel’s tendency to gamble with the region’s security and stability,” Salam said.
“Lebanon reaffirms its commitment to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 in all its clauses, and its appreciation of the efforts deployed by UNIFIL peacekeepers who had suffered the loss of one of their members from the Spanish battalion today,” Salam added.
Salam also called for bolstering national unity and solidarity to confront the dangers posed by Israel.At least two Israeli soldiers were killed and seven injured in the ambush inside Lebanon’s Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms, according to Israel's military.
UNIFIL confirmed that one of its peacekeepers was killed in the ensuing exchange of fire. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the attack, carried out in retaliation to the Israeli airstrike on a party convoy in Syria’s Golan Heights town of Qunaitra which killed six party fighters less than two weeks ago

Geagea Slams Hizbullah's Shebaa Attack as Jumblat Warns of 'Turbulent Phase'
Naharnet /28.01.15/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea and Progressive Socialist Party chief MP Walid Jumblat were quick to react on Wednesday to Hizbullah's attack against an Israeli military vehicle in the Shebaa Farms, warning that Lebanon is headed towards a “turbulent” period. The Foreign Ministry meanwhile condemned Israel's shelling of Lebanese territory. Geagea said during a press conference: “Hizbullah does not have the right to involve the Lebanese army and government in a battle with Israel.”“The cabinet and parliament should decide such affairs,” he added. He warned that the Shebaa attack will have “dangerous repercussions on the Lebanese government and people and it could also have consequences on the army.”
Hizbullah claimed responsibility for the attack against an Israeli military vehicle in the occupied Shebaa Farms that left at least six Israeli soldiers wounded.
The party explained that it was in response to a January 18 Israeli airstrike on the Quneitra region in Syria's Golan Heights that reportedly left six Hizbullah members and an Iranian general dead. Geagea continued: “The Lebanese government and people will bear the consequences of the Shebaa attack.” “How can Hizbullah take such a step in Shebaa given its dialogue with the Mustaqbal Movement?” he wondered. He questioned the purpose of the dialogue given “the party's expansionist plans in the region and the Shebaa Farms attack.”
“We were pleased with the talks, but it appears that Hizbullah is not being at all honest in its actions and claims,” Geagea stressed. Its presence in Quneitra does not serve Lebanon or Palestine, but Iran's ambitions in the region, he remarked.
For his part, Jumblat expected that Lebanon will “enter a major turbulent phase” in the wake of the Shebaa operation. He noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to make political gains through the Quneitra airstrike. “Precautions should be taken should Israel launch an offensive against Lebanon,” said the MP.
In the evening, Jumblat took to Twitter to point out that "it is clear that the resistance's operation has reminded Israel that playing with fire is costly, but this does not prevent taking the necessary measures to confront any aggression." However, he noted that "the operation occurred on Syrian soil seeing as the border is yet to be demarcated, and this was a very important, smart move."Earlier on Wednesday, Speaker Nabih Berri tackled the operation during his weekly meeting with lawmakers at his Ain el-Tineh residence.
He confirmed to the gatherers that the attack took place on Lebanese territory.Netanyahu had said in the wake of the Shebaa attack that “Israel is ready to react forcibly wherever it comes under attack.”

Israel-Hezbollah engagements since 2006
The Daily Star/Jan. 29, 2015
BEIRUT: Both Hezbollah and Israel have assumed a position of mutual deterrence since the 2006 war, avoiding large clashes and maintaining relative quiet along Lebanon’s southern border. Over the past eight years, however, both Israel and Hezbollah have engaged in quiet tit-for-tat acts of violence and sabotage. Feb. 12, 2008: Senior Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh is assassinated in Damascus. Mughniyeh was Hezbollah’s top security commander and was on a number of Most Wanted lists in Israel and the United States for his suspected involvement in several high profile Hezbollah operations.
July 16, 2008: Hezbollah returns the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, in exchange for the release of five Lebanese prisoners and 199 bodies of Lebanese citizens. Among the prisoners is Samir Kuntar, a Lebanese Druze man who was detained in Israel for more than 30 years.
July 18, 2012: A suicide bomber targets a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. Bulgarian officials accuse Hezbollah of committing the attack that killed seven people. Hezbollah has not commented.
Oct. 6, 2012: A Hezbollah drone successfully flies 55 kilometers into Israeli airspace before being shot down by the Israeli army. In a public address, Nasrallah says the drone was designed in Iran and assembled in Lebanon.
Jan. 31, 2013: Israeli jets struck a convoy of trucks in Syria near the Lebanese border. Israel said the trucks were carrying Hezbollah weapons.
May 3-4, 2013: Israeli jets strike targets near Damascus. Hezbollah missiles were believed to be the target of the attack.
Dec. 4, 2013: Hezbollah commander Hasan Lakkis is assassinated in Beirut. Lakkis was a childhood friend and confidante of Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah and played a key role in the party’s drone program. Hezbollah publically blames Israel for the assassination.
Feb. 24, 2014: Israel bombs an abandoned Hezbollah position in east Lebanon.
March 18, 2014: A blast at an Israeli army post in the Shebaa Farms wounds four Israeli soldiers. Nasrallah later claims in an interview with As-Safir newspaper that Hezbollah had executed the attack intending to “send a message that the resistance is still capable of fighting Israel,” despite its intervention in Syria, marking the first time Hezbollah claimed responsibility for attacking Israeli soldiers since the 2006 war.
Sept. 4, 2014: Hezbollah explosives expert Hussein Ali Haidar is killed while dissembling an “Israeli spy device” in south Lebanon.
Oct. 7, 2014: Hezbollah detonates an explosive device in the occupied Shebaa Farms, wounding two Israeli soldiers. Hezbollah immediately claims responsibility for the attack, which party officials said was intended to avenge the death of Haidar.
Jan. 15, 2015: Nasrallah admits in an interview with Al-Mayadeen TV that a Mossad spy infiltrated the party and was providing sensitive information to Israeli authorities.
Jan. 18, 2015: An Israeli strike in Qunaitra, Syria, kills an Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander and six Hezbollah fighters including field commander Mohammad Issa and Jihad Mughniyeh, son of the late Imad Mughniyeh.
Jan. 28, 2015: At least two Israeli soldiers are killed after Hezbollah launches six anti-tank missiles at an Israeli convoy in the occupied Shebaa Farms. Israel responds to the attack by firing more than 50 shells into Lebanon.

Casino du Liban to review layoffs
The Daily Star/Jan. 29, 2015
BEIRUT: Casino du Liban’s board of directors is reassessing its decision to lay off 191 employees, according to Jack Khoueiry, head of the Casino Games Employees Union. Khoueiry told the National News Agency Wednesday that the casino’s board of directors is evaluating the performance of sacked employees on a case-by-case basis and would reconsider the status of those who were unjustly fired. Earlier Wednesday, sacked employees staged a protest outside the casino premises in Maameltein north of Beirut, blocking access for the second consecutive day. Casino du Liban’s administration announced Tuesday that it was seeking to resolve accumulating financial and administrative woes, and blamed unproductive employees for a decline in revenues.  “Some employees’ lack of productivity and attendance has led to a deterioration in operations and revenues, which puts at stake the company’s future and existence,” Casino du Liban said in a statement. Sacked employees said corruption, political favoritism and embezzlement are to blame for the decline in the casino’s revenues, urging Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi and Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh to reinstate them. Khoueiry claimed Tuesday that close to half of the 191 employees were fired unjustly. “Around 100 of these people have been impacted unfairly by this decision,” he said.
“We are concerned for those who do not have other jobs outside the casino and the union will stand behind them,” he said.  The An-Nahar newspaper reported that the sacked employees would receive $11 million worth of indemnities, whereby each employee would be paid 12 to 36 times his most recent salary.Azzi promised Wednesday to follow up closely on the casino’s expected reforms. “Reform measures at Casino du Liban should be comprehensive. While it is unacceptable to dismiss productive employees, it is also necessary to lay off staff members who fail to assume their responsibilities,” he said. Azzi made his remarks following a meeting with Hamid Kredie, chairman of Casino du Liban.

Shebaa's Attack/Don’t invite disaster
The Daily Star/Jan. 29, 2015
Hezbollah’s reaction to Israel’s targeting of its convoy in Syria less than two weeks ago came as no big surprise Wednesday, as the resistance party was being pushed – both politically and physically – by Israel into a response. But it is imperative now that Hezbollah thinks of what is best for all of Lebanon, not just the party itself. The party has made it clear that the attack in the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms came in retaliation for Israel’s deadly attack on its convoy. And Iran – which also lost a general in the attack – sent a warning to Israel Tuesday. But in terms of Syria’s place within all this, amid the numerous attacks against it by Israel over the last few years – the latest one occurring early Wednesday morning – it still seems it is unable or unwilling to retaliate itself.
Israel cannot claim to have been shocked by Hezbollah’s response, which it surely expected. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many close to him in government will indeed have welcomed Hezbollah’s response, for parliamentary elections in March are fast approaching, and war is always good for a hawkish leader’s ratings. This is just one of the many reasons that Hezbollah must now act with wisdom, caution and also a degree of humbleness. It would do Israel too many favors now to escalate the situation on the border.
Hezbollah must think of the entire country, and not just its own interests and pride. Lebanon cannot afford the response that Israel is promising. The country is in such a precarious security position that a new conflict could prove disastrous.

Tensions in the North: Not war – yet
By YAAKOV LAPPIN/01/29/2015
At the heart of the increasingly deadly escalation on the northern border is an attempt by Hezbollah and Iran to set up a dangerous terrorist base in southern Syria. The base is meant to target the North with rockets, bombs and death squads. The air strike last week targeting key Hezbollah and Iranian figures, attributed by international media to Israel, was a defensive step, designed to eliminate a developing threat to Israeli security that was engineered by Iran and built by its Lebanese servant, Hezbollah. Both of these belligerent Shi’ite actors have spread deep into Syria since coming to the aid of their embattled and shrinking ally, the Assad regime, in recent years. They have begun to exploit their increased presence in Syria to expand their front of anti-Israel jihad, broadening it from southern Lebanon – Hezbollah’s home base – to southern Syria. Wednesday’s attack consisted of mortar fire from Syria and missile fire from Lebanon, showing how the Lebanese- Syria border has become irrelevant, and how the two arenas have merged into one front. Israel will not sit by contently and watch the formation of a new Iranian base on the Syrian Golan, right on its doorstep. Now, Hezbollah and Israel are trading blows in the north in an increasingly deadly exchange that has already claimed the lives of two IDF soldiers protecting their country, as well as that of a UN peacekeeper from Spain. Wednesday’s events do not mean a full-scale war is inevitable, but it is now a few steps closer. Neither side has an interest in all-out war. Iran may wish to reserve Hezbollah’s massive firepower capability – made up of more than 100,000 rockets and missiles – for a future battle over its nuclear program. And Hezbollah is keen on avoiding Israel’s devastating firepower. A clash with Israel would leave Hezbollah exposed to its numerous Sunni enemies in next-door Syria, as well as to an angry Lebanese public, which is very keen on avoiding a conflict with Israel. Israel, too, has no desire to see its home front exposed to heavy Hezbollah rocket assaults that could leave daily life here paralyzed for a lengthy period. Still, the Middle East of 2015 is a chaotic, heavily armed and unpredictable region, where events increasingly stray from the original goals and intentions of states and semi-states. For Israel, this confrontation is purely defensive. Hezbollah, on the other hand, is fighting because it wishes to protect its demand to be able to attack Israel from Syria.
Neither side wants to lose control of events, but that is no guarantee that a wider conflict will not follow.

Netanyahu blames Iran for northern border attack
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid the blame on Iran for Wednesday’s multipronged attack by Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border that killed two IDF soldiers and wounded seven others.
“For some time, Iran – via Hezbollah – has been trying to establish an additional terrorist front against us from the Golan Heights,” said Netanyahu. “We are taking strong and responsible action against this attempt.”
The governments of Lebanon and Syria also bear responsibility for attacks against Israel in the North that emanated from their territory, he added. “Those behind today’s attack will pay the full price.”
Netanyahu spoke Wednesday evening, just before he held security consultations with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Yoram Cohen and other defense officials.
“In all of these events, our mission is to defend the State of Israel,” said Netanyahu.
“Our only consideration is the security of the State of Israel and its citizens. Thus we have acted and thus we will continue to act.”
On Tuesday, Iran warned the US that it planned to respond to an alleged Israeli attack on a Hezbollah convoy near the Golan Heights on January 18, in which Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Muhammad Allahdadi was killed, according to the IRNA news agency.
“We told the Americans that the leaders of the Zionist regime should await the consequences of their act,” Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said.
Hezbollah took responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on two IDF vehicles on Israel’s northern border. But a source in the Prime Minister’s Office bluntly accused Iran of helping Hezbollah behind the scenes.
“Iran is behind this heinous terrorist attack – the same Iran that the world powers are forming an agreement with, that would allow it to maintain its ability to acquire nuclear weapons capacity,” the source said.

This is the same Iran that tried to build a terrorist infrastructure in the Golan Heights, similar to what it has in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, and Yemen. This is the same Iran that supports terrorism around the globe, the source added.
“We must not give such terrorism a nuclear umbrella,” the official said. “We must not let the most dangerous regime in the world arm itself with the most dangerous weapons in the world.”
In Washington, State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said: “The United States strongly condemns Hezbollah’s attack today on Israeli Defense Forces near the border between Lebanon and Israel.”
He added that it was a “blatant violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.”
“We don’t have information on what munitions were used by Hezbollah,” Vasquez added, when asked for comment on the alleged use of sophisticated Russian- made, Kornet anti-tank missiles.
On Tuesday, the State Department warned against “escalation” on Israel’s northern border, after Syrian positions fired into the Golan Heights. The IAF returned fire on Syrian Army positions overnight.
UN Resolution 1701 codified a cease-fire over the blue line between Israel and Lebanon after Israel’s conflict with Hezbollah in 2006.
“We support Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday, as she urged both parties to “respect the blue line between Israel and Lebanon.”
“We also of course condemn the act of violence, and will be watching the situation closely,” Psaki said.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor sent a letter to the Security Council and to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in which he said Israel would not stand idly by “as Hezbollah targets Israelis.”
“Israel will not accept any attacks on its territory and it will exercise its right to self-defense and take all necessary measures to protect its population,” he added.
“Events in the North continue to unfold and Israel extends its condolences to UNIFIL and the Spanish government over the death of one of its soldiers earlier today.” A Spanish peacekeeper from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon was killed when Israel responded to the attack, a UN spokesman and Spanish officials said.
“I urge the Security Council to unequivocally and publicly condemn Hezbollah,” Prosor added. “The terrorist organization must be disarmed and the government of Lebanon must abide by its international commitments and fully implement Security Council resolution 1701.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman phoned his Spanish counterpart, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia- Margallo, to express his condolences over the death of the UNIFIL peacekeeper.
Liberman has instructed Israeli ambassadors around the world to tell their respective governments that Israel holds the Syrian and Lebanese governments responsible for Hezbollah attacks against Israel from their territory.
Liberman, who is on a visit to China, spoke of the attack with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a meeting in Beijing.
“Israel has to change the policy by which it responds to missile attacks against its sovereign territory,” said Liberman, and “it must do so harshly, and not proportionately.”
China or the US would react in such a disproportionate manner if it were their sovereign territory that was being attacked, Liberman said, and Israel expects its allies to support a harsh response.
He added that countries around the world have to adopt a harsh and severe policy with regard to terrorism that does not allow for this kind of provocation. Terrorist organizations throughout the globe operate under different names, Liberman said, but their objectives are the same when it comes to attacks in the Middle East and against Western targets.”
In New York, President Reuven Rivlin cut short his stay and flew home so he could be back in Israel in light of the situation.
Reuters contributed to this report.

Two soldiers killed, 7 wounded in Hezbollah attack near Lebanon border
Haaretz/ Jan. 28, 2015
Two Israeli soldiers were killed and seven wounded on Wednesday morning, after an anti-tank missile struck an Israel Defense Forces vehicle in the Har Dov area near the Lebanon border, as mortar shells were fired at nearby areas. Two Israeli soldiers were killed and seven wounded on Wednesday morning, after an anti-tank missile struck an Israel Defense Forces vehicle in the Har Dov area near the Lebanon border, as mortar shells were fired at nearby areas. IDF forces responded with artilley fire, shelling several targets in southern Lebanon. A Spanish UNIFIL soldier was killed in the strikes. According to messages relayed between Hezbollah and Israel through UNIFIL it appears that the two sides wish to avoid further escalation. In a message relayed to Israel from Hezbollah through UNIFIL, it was passed along that Hezbollah considers the attack an adequate retaliation to the airstrike in Syria last week, attributed to Israel, that killed seven Hezbollah operatives. The Israeli side is still holding consultations, but at this stage, it appears Israel does not wish further escalation.  The wounded IDF troops were being treated at the Sieff Hospital in Safed and the Rambam Hospital in Haifa. Three suffered light to moderate wounds, and the rest were lightly wounded. The IDF said that no soldier had been kidnapped, despite earlier reports. The two soldiers killed were named as Captain Yochai Kalangel, 25, and Sergeant Dor Chaim Nini, 20, both of them from the Givati Brigade.  Despite the high alert in recent days, following the unconfirmed Israeli strike in Syria, the soldiers were driving in an unarmored vehicle on the Lebanon border when they were ambushed. At least five Kornet anti-tank missiles are believed to have been fired in the incident. A senior Israeli army officer said that he doesn't think the lack of armor on the vehicle is significant considering the type of missiles used. The IDF declared a closed military zone in the area between the Dafna kibbutz in the upper Galilee to the Mas'ade village in the eastern Golan Heights. The zone will be in effect until Wednesday noon. The site of the attack was about 200 meters before the road leading to Ghajar. The first missile struck a D-Max vehicle and killed two soldiers. After the strike, soldiers driving in other vehicles stepped out, and thus sustained lighter wounds when the second missile hit, the IDF said. The Israeli army said it will launch an investigation into the soldiers' conduct. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before a situation assessment with Israel's security chiefs that "whoever is behind today's attack will pay the full price."Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called his Spanish counterpart to convey Israel's condolences for the death of the Spanish soldier, and said Hezbollah is to blame for the attack, and that Israel considers the Lebanese government responsible for any attack out of its territory.

Netanyahu: Those behind deadly border attack will pay the price
Ynetnews/Reuters 28.01.15 /PM says 'IDF is prepared to act strongly on all fronts'; defense minister says 'we will respond forcefully and with determination'.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said attackers who killed two IDF soldiers near the Israeli-Lebanese border would be held responsible. "Those behind the attack today will pay the full price," Netanyahu said as he launched consultations with security chiefs on a possible further response to the anti-tank attack by Hezbollah fighters. "For a while not that Iran has been trying - through Hezbollah - to open another terror front against us on the Golan Heights. The government of Lebanon and the Assad regime are also responsible to the consequences of the attacks coming out of their territories against the state of Israel," Netanyahu added.  Earlier in the day, Netanyahu warned Israel’s opponents in the north to take the summer war with Gaza as an example of the magnitude of IDF retaliation. “To everyone who is trying to challenge us at the northern border, I recommend for them look what happened there, not far from the city of Sderot, in Gaza. Hamas took its hardest hit since its formation and the IDF is prepared to act strongly on all fronts,” Netanyahu said at a ceremony in the southern city of Sderot. Labor Chairman Isaac Herzog told Ynet that "we must respond with good judgment and integrate diplomatic views with the power of the IDF." He added that "in the struggle with terror there are no compromises, there is no coalition and no opposition." Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Wednesday that Israel should harshly respond to the attack. "The firing of rockets at our soveriegn territory should be responded to harshly and disproportionately, just as China or the US would in similar circumstances," said Lieberman. Two soldiers were killed and seven were wounded in an attack along Israel's border with Lebanon Wednesday noon after Hezbollah fire hit Israel.  Mortars later hit Mt. Hermon in an attack which Hezbollah says is a response to the IDF's attack in Syria, which in turn was also a response to rockets fired by Hezbollah at Israel from Syria on Tuesday. The attack took place near the Mt. Dov area, in proximity to the Arab village of Ghajar. IDF response to Hezbollah fire. "We will not tolerate any firing towards Israeli territory or violation of our sovereignty and we will respond forcefully and with determination," Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said in a statement after IAF warplanes attacked Syrian military targets shortly after midnight on Wednesday. The air strike on targets in areas under the control of Syrian President Bashar Assad sent a clear message, Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon said.

Hezbollah faces internal criticism in Lebanon
Roi Kais/Ynetnews/Published: 28.01.15/ Israel News
Senior Lebanese officials say Nasrallah is dragging the country into another war in Israel; 'Hezbollah has no right to implicate the Lebanese people in a battle with Israel,' says leader of March 14 Alliance. While some in Tripoli and in Beirut's Dahieh suburb, a Hezbollah stronghold, fired shots of jubilation into the air, celebrating Hezbollah's Wednesday attack on Mt. Dov, senior officials in Lebanon were quick to accuse Hassan Nasrallah's organization of trying to drag the country into another war with Israel. "Where is the interest of Lebanon if it gets dragged into a war with Israel, when Israel is the one that needs it?" former Lebanese president Michel Suleiman wrote on his Facebook page.
Samir Geagea, one of the leaders of the March 14 Alliance, said that "today's development indicates that Hezbollah is more and more expanding its regional schemes against the Lebanese state."
"Hezbollah has no right to implicate the Lebanese people in a battle with Israel. There is a government and a parliament which can decide on that,” Geagea went on to say.
Hezbollah has been facing a lot of internal criticism in Lebanon over the past three years, mostly due to its constantly increasing involvement in the civil war in Syria. Two years ago, Hezbollah sent large forces to Syria to help President Bashar Assad's army recapture territories it lost to rebels trying to oust the Syrian president, after it appeared Assad was losing his grasp on Syria.
Since Hezbollah joined the fighting in Syria, Lebanon has turned into a target for attacks by Sunni rebels - some more moderate than others - as well as attacks by al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, both Sunni organizations opposing the Assad regime. Dozens of Lebanese people - both soldiers and civilians - have been killed in these attacks, which include car bombs and rocket fire, while Hezbollah has been accused of dragging Lebanon into a war it has no stake in. Like Syria, Lebanon is a complicated and tangled web of religions and sects which includes Christians, Druze and Muslims. There's a variety of Muslim sects - Sunni, Shi'ite and Alawites.
Lebanon itself was torn to shreds in a civil war that claimed the lives of thousands between the years 1975-1990. Many in the country fear that Hezbollah's involvement in Syria will lead to another civil war, mostly between Sunni and Shi'ites. Many rounds of fighting between Sunni and Shi'ite have already taken place in several Lebanese cities, particularly in Tripoli, since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.
Officials in Lebanon expressed concern of the consequences of any Hezbollah response to the attack in Quneitra even before Wednesday's attack, especially in light of the crisis the country faces - including attacks by Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra as well as matters of internal politics

New details emerge: At least 5 Kornet missiles fired in Hezbollah ambush of IDF soldiers
By YAAKOV LAPPIN/01/28/2015 /J.Post
A preliminary military investigation following the Hezbollah attack on Israeli military jeeps near the border with Lebanon on Wednesday revealed that terrorists with the Lebanese Shi’ite group launched anti-tank missiles from a distance of at least four kilometers.
The military vehicles travelled on a civilian road in the village of Ghajar two kilometers away from the border when they came under a heavy Hezbollah ambush, consisting of five to six Kornet missiles, a senior army source said. He estimated that the attackers were four to five kilometers away from the vehicles. A military D-max vehicle was the first vehicle hit in the attack, prompting all of those inside an IDF jeep behind it to quickly evacuate the vehicle before it too was hit with missiles. The subsequent injuries came from military vehicles nearby.
The source stressed that the vehicles travelled on a road used jointly by military and civilian traffic, and that civilian cars were also in the vicinity of the attack. One house in the village was also struck by a missile in the attack.
"It's too soon to draw conclusions about whether the vehicles should have been armored," the source said. "We will investigate the incident." Two IDF soldiers were killed and seven were injured in the attack.
The IDF used artillery guns and tanks to fire at Hezbollah targets near the Lebanese border in the minutes following in the incident. One Spanish UN peacekeeper was killed in the Israeli return fire, and Israel has apologized for the incident, the source said. "We regret the incident and are in touch with the United Nations," he added. "We are continuing to manage this, and remain on very high alert," said the officer.

US says Hezbollah "in blatant violation" of UN resolutions
By MICHAEL WILNER/J.Post/01/28/2015
WASHINGTON -- The United States "strongly condemned" Hezbollah's rocketing of Israeli territory on Wednesday with anti-tank munitions, killing two IDF soldiers and wounding seven others. "The United States strongly condemns Hezbollah’s attack today on Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) near the border between Lebanon and Israel," said Edgar Vasquez, a State Department spokesman, "in blatant violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701." "We don’t have information on what munitions were used by Hezbollah," Vasquez added, when asked for comment on Hezbollah's alleged use of sophisticated anti-tank, Russian-made Kornet rockets. On Tuesday, the State Department warned against "escalation" on Israel's northern border, after Syrian positions fired into the Golan Heights. The Israeli air force returned fire on Syrian Army positions overnight. United Nations Resolution 1701 codified a ceasefire over the blue line between Israel and Lebanon after Israel's conflict with Hezbollah in 2006. "We support Israel's legitimate right to self defense," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday, urging both parties to "respect the blue line between Israel and Lebanon." "We also of course condemn the act of violence, and will be watching the situation closely," Psaki said. The Israeli military authorities have been on high alert the last 10 days following the attack on a convoy carrying Hezbollah and Iranian officials on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights earlier this month. Hezbollah has vowed to avenge the attack, which it blames on Israel.
Following the anti-tank missile, mortar shells launched from Syria were fired at IDF positions on Har Dov and the Hermon Mountain. The army evacuated dozens of people from the Hermon Mountain. A home in the Israeli border town of Kafr Rajar was damaged by a mortar shell. The officer and soldier killed in the Hezbollah attack on the Lebanese border were named on Wednesday as Cap. Yohai Kalangel, 25 from Har Gilo, a company commander in the Tsavar Battalion and Sgt. Dor Haim Nini of the same battalion, a 20 year old from Shtulim who will be posthumously promoted to the rank of Staff-Sergeant. ** staff contributed to this report.

Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups praise Hezbollah attack
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH/J.Post/01/28/2015 /Palestinian groups on Wednesday welcomed the Hezbollah attack on an IDF convoy in the North, saying it was a “natural response to Israeli crimes.” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that Hezbollah has "the right to respond to Israeli occupation, especially following the last aggression on Syria.” Abu Zuhri was referring to an airstrike on the Syrian side of the Golan, which killed a number of Hezbollah and Iranian operatives. Hamas representatives in Lebanon issued a statement also welcoming the Hezbollah attack. The statement described the attack as a “natural response to recurring Zionist aggressions.”

Hizballah attack targeted IDF commanders on an inspection tour of northern border security
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis January 28, 2015
Iran’s Lebanese proxy, Hizballah, used five anti-tank rockets and roadside bombs for an ambush Wednesday, Jan. 28, outside Kafr Ghajar, which killed two IDF servicemen. Maj. Yohai Klangel, 25, from Har Gilo on the West Bank and Staff Sgt. Dor Nini, 20, from Moshav Shtulim. They were traveling in unarmored vehicles debkafile’s military sources report. Another seven soldiers were injured. Hizballah and Iran, who had vowed to avenge the air strike which killed an Iranian Revolutionary Guards general and six Hizballah officers on Jan. 18, pulled off three feats in this attack: One: their agents were able to cross the border unnoticed to plant roadside bombs. Two: they moved anti-tank rocket launchers right up to the order fence - undetected. And, three, astonishingly, they did not find it hard to strike and blow up the two command vehicles and inflict Israeli losses.
This three strokes were achieved - notwithstanding IDF assurances that all the necessary security measures had been put in place and reinforced in readiness for the promised Iranian-Hizballah revenge attack.
Our military sources note that something must have been seriously amiss with the convoy’s security for Hizballah to achieve its stunning success.
In the first place: How did it happen that an IDF command convoy risked exposure to harm by traveling within sight of the enemy without proper protection?
Inhabitants of the northern border towns and villages locations are entitled to pin down the IDF with a hard question: Why are they held so strictly to military instructions for keeping civilians safe, when the army is so careless with the security of its own “senior officers” and men?
Israel’s armed forces will now be obliged to pull out the stops to recover respect for its deterrent capacity. There is little choice but to inflict a serious military blow against Hizballah and the Iranian intelligence officers based in Syria, whence their Lebanese proxy procured the intelligence for attacking the IDF command convoy. Israel must also recover the initiative in the long conflict with Iran and Hizballah and reinforce the message conveyed in its Jan. 18 air strike on their mission near Quneitra, that it will not sit still for the Golan to be transformed into a forward position for attacking Israel from Syria.

Two Israeli soldiers killed, 7 injured by Hizballah fire from Mt. Dov on unarmored IDF command vehicle. The IDF hit back
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis January 28, 2015,
The IDF spokesman disclosed that an officer and a soldier were killed and 7 injured in coordinated Hizballah rocket and mortar attacks from Mt. Dov (Shabaa Farms) on an Israeli command patrol vehicle near the border Wednesday, Jan. 28. debkafile: The vehicle was not armored. Israel deployed artillery and aircraft to hit back at Hizballah and allied targets in South Lebanon and a broad military clash ensued lasting more than 90 minutes. The Iranian proxy claimed the attack as retaliation for the Jan. 18 attack which killed 6 of its fighters and an Iranian general.
A broad military clash between Iran-backed Hizballah and Israel erupted on Israel’s northern borders. Residents of Metula and other border locations were ordered to stay indoors and keep their doors and windows shut; tourists warned to stay out of the region and road traffic halted. Israeli massed military strength in border areas after moving figures on the Lebanese side were feared preparing to cross the border for terrorist attacks on abductions under cover of fire.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahum on his way to an urgent, top-level security conference warned: “My advice is not to test us!” debkafile: Israel is determined to ward off any Iranian and Hizballah plans for a war of attrition..
Mt. Dov (Shabaa Farms) is a small mountainous strip of land disputed between Israel and Hizballah at the intersection of the Lebanese-Syrian-Israeli borders nx adjacent to the Golan in the north. It is about 11km long and 2.5 km wide.
debkafile reported Wednesday morning:
Expanding its responses to missile fire from the Syrian Golan, Israeli fighter jets went into action Tuesday night, Jan. 27, as warning sirens blared for a second rocket attack in the northern Golan villages of Odem, Al-Rom. Buq’ata, Majd el-Shams, Masaada. Neve Ativ, Nimrod and Ain Kanya. The search for rocket fragments began at first light Wednesday and continues.
Israeli jets targeted the Syrian artillery position in the Quneitra region, shelled by Israel Tuesday afternoon after a four-rocket volley was directed at northern Golan and the adjoining Hermon ski resort without causing casualties. This Quneitra position is manned by the Syrian army’s 90th Brigade with the Syrian Popular Army militiamen deployed nearby. That militia is under construction by Iran as a Syrian facsimile of its Revolutionary Guards.
debkafile’s military sources report that Israel was standing by for a repeat of the first rocket attack by pro-Iranian elements on the Golan, including Hizballah - especially after the dire warnings of retaliation issued earlier Tuesday by Tehran – and so the Israeli air force was ready to react fast. The way is now open for both sides to escalate – or draw back.
debkafile reported earlier that Tehran had Tuesday adopted two synchronous courses for getting back at Israel for the Jan. 18 air strike near Quneitra which killed an Iranian general and six Hizballah officers: Iraqi Shiite militiamen posted on the Syrian Golan along with Hizballah fighters sent four rockets winging towards Mt. Hermon while some 1,600 people were skiing on its slopes: Two landed and exploded on the Israel side of the demarcation line - one near the skiers and the other outside Kibbutz Merom Hagolan. None caused casualties or damage. Israeli forces stationed along the Syrian and Lebanese borders went on top readiness, a level still in force. Overhead, Israeli planes and other aerial vehicles were on 24-hour patrol.
In Tehran, two high Iranian officials Tuesday warned Israel to await retaliation. Dep. Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said: "We told the Americans that the leaders of the Zionist regime should await the consequences of their act," adding, "Israel crossed our red lines."
He spoke at a commemoration ceremony for the Iranian general Mohammad Ali Allah Dadi who was slain on the Syrian Golan a week ago. In this warning, the Iranian official introduced two new features: Tehran has never before set red lines for Israeli military action; neither have the Iranians ever admitted to relaying a warning to Israel through Washington – at least not in public. The Islamic Republic was saying in effect that it is not only acting in concert with the Obama administration over a nuclear accord, but the two powers will also be aligned against any potential Israel military action against Iran that is intended to upset the nuclear accord unfolding between Washington and Tehran. In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to comment on “private diplomatic contacts with Iran” beyond saying that no threat was delivered to Israel in the latest round of nuclear talks. "We absolutely condemn any such threats that come in any form," Psaki told reporters.
Then, Tuesday night, The Revolutionary Guards’ acting commander, Gen. Hossein Salami, vowed that Iran would “retaliate soon.”
debkafile’s military sources do not rule out Iranian and Iraqi Shiite militias posted to Syria, together with Hizballah, possibly escalating attacks on Israel from the Syrian Golan in the days to come. Such attacks are unlikely at this stage to form a continuous campaign but would rather be sporadic, their purpose being to maintain a high level of military tension and keep Israel on constant alert and on edge. On the diplomatic front, Tehran will continue the effort disclosed Tuesday to drag the US and the Obama administration into involvement in the ongoing crisis, to make sure Israel’s hands are tied against major responses to its harassments. So Jen Psaki had every reason to express great concern about the future of the ceasefire along Israel’s borders with Syria.

Assad, Lebanon to blame for Hezbollah border attack on IDF soldiers, Netanyahu says
By TOVAH LAZAROFF/J.Post/01/28/2015 20:05/“Whoever is behind today’s attack will pay the full price,” premier said during consultations with defense chiefs. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday fingered Lebanon and Syrian President Bashar Assad as responsible for Hezbollah’s anti-tank missile strike on an IDF patrol convoy near the Lebanese border. The premier warned that those responsible for Wednesday’s attack that killed two soldiers and wounded seven others along Israel’s northern border would pay a heavy price. “Whoever is behind today’s attack will pay the full price,” he said. He spoke at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv just before he held security consultations with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and ISA Director Yoram Cohen and other defense officials. “For some time, Iran – via Hezbollah – has been trying to establish an additional terrorist front against us from the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu said. “We are taking strong and responsible action against this attempt,” he said. “The Lebanese government and the Assad regime share responsibility for the consequences of the attacks emanating from their territories against the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “In all of these events, our mission is to defend the State of Israel. Our only consideration is the security of the State of Israel and its citizens. Thus we have acted and thus we will continue to act,” he said. Netanyahu added, “I would like to send condolences to the families of the fallen and my best wishes for a full recovery to our wounded soldiers.”

Ten reasons Hezbollah should be worried
Nicholas Saidel/Now Lebanon
Published: 27/01/2015
Why Hezbollah, Iran, the Assad regime and their supporters should be concerned about the future of the Party of God
The future of Hezbollah seems bright from afar. The party has grown numerically and expanded geographically; has drastically improved its missile, rocket and drone arsenal; and has become a battle-hardened fighting force from its experience in the ongoing war in Syria. Looking back to victories such as in Qusayr and Yabroud, Hezbollah has shown much capability in defending the Assad regime. Some would even argue that were it not for Hezbollah, the government in Syria would have fallen long ago. Now advising and training Shiite militias in Iraq, as well as paramilitary forces in Syria — with the help of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) — Hezbollah has augmented its military reach into Mesopotamia and the broader Middle East, to countries including Yemen and Bahrain. The scope of this Lebanese-based Shiite militia is truly global; its operatives are deployed in places as far away as Southeast Asia and South America, for money laundering, drug and weapons trafficking, and to potentially launch attacks on Western, Israeli and Jewish targets. While Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government, it is nonetheless able to operate with virtual impunity inside Lebanon’s borders.
Notwithstanding the above, below are 10 reasons why Hezbollah, Iran, the Assad regime and supporters of this “Resistance Axis” should be concerned about the future of the Hezbollah:
First, Hezbollah’s image is tarnishing. There was one embarrassing resignation in late 2014, which has put the party in a negative spotlight at a very critical time. Also, leaks to the media indicate that members of Hezbollah will soon be summoned before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), a body formed pursuant to the UNSC resolution to investigate the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. If Hezbollah is implicated, which wouldn’t surprise many, this will be just one more piece of evidence proving to the Lebanese that Hezbollah acts not for Lebanon, but for itself and its Iranian patrons. Whereas once Hezbollah was seen as the “Resistance,” the defender of Lebanon’s border with Israel and the champion of Palestinian rights, its Iranian-guided role in Syria has created a domestic marketing problem for Hezbollah, one that is developing traction in academic, editorial and political circles and that could have deleterious consequences for the party down the line.
Second, Hezbollah fighters are being killed at an unsustainable pace. Approximately 1,000 Hezbollah fighters have been killed in action in Syria, some of whom were senior Hezbollah commanders. These severe losses, given that there are around 5,000 Hezbollah fighters in Syria, means that approximately one in five are being killed. This slow bleed, now playing out in cities such as Aleppo where Hezbollah is facing an emboldened Jabhat al-Nusra, cannot be maintained. To make matters worse, recent reports indicate that the Islamic State (ISIS) is gaining ground in Syria notwithstanding coalition airstrikes. Also, the Iraqi Shiite militias that were acting as a support force for Hezbollah are returning to Iraq to fend off the onslaught of ISIS there, leaving Hezbollah with fewer troops as it coordinates efforts with an increasingly incompetent and defection-prone Syrian Army as its local sponsor. Iran has had to deploy its own troops to make up for this loss in manpower, an unambiguous sign that Hezbollah is feeling the effects of its costly adventurism into the Syrian theater.
Third, Hezbollah has confirmed infiltration by its arch enemy intelligence service, Israel’s Mossad. In light of the Mossad penetration deep into the ranks of Hezbollah, the party will now have to divert more resources to counterintelligence moving forward, which will be difficult as the availability of skilled manpower dwindles.
Fourth: a combination of oil and governance issues. The 50% drop in oil prices since last June has forced Hezbollah to implement salary cuts and otherwise tighten its belt in spending, which will only add incentive to those within Hezbollah who are already pilfering from Hezbollah’s Iranian largesse. Hezbollah’s inability to root out corruption partially stems from the fact that it is relying more and more on new, un-vetted and sometimes very young recruits, whose ideology (or lack thereof) may not be necessarily aligned with the party. These are ordinary Lebanese citizens, Syrian refugees, or Palestinian refugees usually affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), some of whom aren’t Shiite, who for protection for themselves and their families or out of financial necessity have joined Hezbollah’s ranks but have not gone through the necessary institutional controls that weed out individuals who may have a more sordid agenda. Hezbollah’s rapid expansion since the Syrian uprising, which was not coupled with any correlated changes in governance structure or policy, has arguably exacerbated its previous vulnerability to corruption and scandals.
Fifth: sanctions and a Syrian political solution that does not include Bashar al-Assad. The Western-imposed sanctions on Russia and Iran could potentially weaken both countries’ leverage against the West in terms of removing Assad from power. So far, the West hasn’t applied the requisite pressure to take advantage of its heightened leverage, but it may do so in the future — especially considering the more muscular foreign policy envisioned by the new Republican-majority US Senate. If a more hawkish candidate than President Barack Obama is elected president in America in 2016, there could very well be American boots on the ground in Syria operating not only to degrade and destroy the likes of the Nusra Front and ISIS, but also to assist the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in defeating the Assad regime. If Assad were removed from power, it could affect Hezbollah’s relationship with Syria and the party’s access to vital Syrian supply routes. Relevantly, prominent opposition groups like the Syrian National Council have gone on record stating that a post-Assad Syria would cut ties with the Iranian Axis and thus Hezbollah. In a recent interview with Al-Mayadeen, even Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah massaged his previously unambiguous language regarding Assad’s permanence as the president of Syria, stating: “Even if the political solution means that Assad should go after the end of his term, this should be in coordination with him.”
Sixth, Hezbollah is now forced to deal with rival Shiite political organizations, religious and secular thought leaders back home in Lebanon who are undermining the party’s authority. This is a somewhat new phenomenon, and while Hezbollah is still the party with the guns, this movement could grow to become a mitigating force to Hezbollah’s influence within Lebanon. While Hezbollah has successfully dealt with (read: coopted) its historical rival, the Amal Movement, it is now facing empowered groups such as the Lebanese Option Party, and religious leaders such as Ali al-Amine and the late Hani Fahs — whose visions for Lebanon’s future do not align with Hezbollah’s Iranian-focused agenda. This is in addition to the myriad Lebanese intellectuals and journalists, e.g. Hanin Ghaddar, who have courageously spoken out against Hezbollah in recent times.
Seventh, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), once thought of as a somewhat ineffective force in comparison to Hezbollah and one that still has a complicated relationship with non-Shiite populations in Lebanon (read: mistrust) and with Hezbollah, has recently proven itself to be the more competent domestic policing and law enforcement entity when fighting against the same terrorist and guerrilla warfare tactics that Hezbollah perfected against the IDF. The LAF’s victory in securing Tripoli, capturing Sunni jihadist cells in Saida and the recapture of Arsal are evidence of its mounting ability to fight terrorism. Just recently, the LAF thwarted what would have been a series of suicide attacks, making three arrests and dismantling a bomb-laden car on the outskirts of Arsal. Also, the LAF has proven itself to be highly resilient to defections, notwithstanding the fact that approximately half of its forces are Sunni, illustrating the public’s rising trust in the LAF as a state institution. On the flip side, Hezbollah has demonstrated in Syria an inability to develop efficient counter-insurgency strategies, such as fighting from fixed positions, holding territory, and detecting IEDS and ambushes before they occur. For its part, the LAF has had ample external support. The US, France, Saudi Arabia, and Great Britain have committed themselves to funding and equipping the LAF with arms, vehicles (both land and air) and tower structures that give it the qualitative edge it needs to combat the likes of ISIS and Nusra.
Eighth, Hezbollah’s deterrence against Israel is arguably deteriorating. Israel has been hitting weapons convoys and caches in Syria and, at least in one instance in early 2014, inside Lebanon, destined for Hezbollah, in part, to maintain air supremacy and to ensure Hezbollah will not possess any “game changing” armaments in any future war with the Jewish state. Israel wisely hits Hezbollah in Syria for the most part to lessen Hezbollah’s potential justifications for a military response since it is a Lebanese organization operating without formal authority on foreign (i.e. Syrian) soil. The most recent Israeli air assault played out in Quneitra, Syria, along Israel’s northern border on 18 January 2015. Significantly, the strike came well after the latest Mossad agent was arrested — possibly this was in part an Israeli message to Nasrallah that Israel’s spy network against Hezbollah is vaster than previously known. The Apache helicopter attack on a Hezbollah convoy killed six Hezbollah members as well as six Iranian soldiers. The casualties included senior Hezbollah commanders from the elite Raduan Force and one Iranian general. Hezbollah will most likely respond by resorting to the very pedestrian tactic that is becoming the norm; planting IEDs near Israeli patrols in the Shebaa Farms/Mount Dov region along the Israeli border — hardly a proportionate response.
It seems as though Hezbollah — possibly on orders from Iran in light of the delicate nuclear negotiations or because of Hezbollah’s fear of a full-scale war with Israel while embroiled in a seemingly endless conflict in Syria — is not currently able to credibly threaten the Israeli homeland. One Hezbollah expert claims that Hezbollah’s deterrence capability has been reduced to hitting Israeli and Jewish targets far from Israel proper. Such effete responses could translate into more Israeli preemptive operations against the party and more robust Israeli support of rebel groups in the Syrian Golan Heights.
Ninth, indications are that South American governments previously somewhat “friendly” to Hezbollah, such as Brazil, Venezuela and Cuba (potential sites for future Hezbollah attacks on Israeli and Jewish assets), are now implementing slight foreign policy shifts, aligning their governments towards America and away from Iran, and by implication, Hezbollah. This could have far-reaching financial and strategic repercussions for Hezbollah. This regional policy shift will likely also aid Israel in its global deterrence war with Hezbollah.
Tenth, Hezbollah will likely suffer severe military and public relations damage as a result of the new battlefront emerging in northern Lebanon. The war in Syria is now spilling over into northern Lebanon via the Qalamoun Mountains which straddle the borderlands between the two countries. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which Hezbollah could benefit from this save an all-out victory that restores the group’s image as Lebanon’s “resistance” force. Chances of this are slim to none. A dramatic increase in small-scale attacks against Hezbollah and its base of support in Lebanon’s north is likely imminent. Syrian opposition groups, such as the Nusra Font, have been testing the Syrian Army, Hezbollah and the LAF in this region for some time to find weaknesses and areas in which they can penetrate safely into Lebanon to punish Hezbollah for its intervention in Syria and safeguard rebel supply lines back into Syria. This is a crucial rebel goal in light of the harsh winter underway in the Qalamoun region. Just recently, on 10 January, Nusra terrorists committed a double suicide bombing in a café in the Jabal Mohsen neighborhood of Tripoli that killed at least nine and left over 35 injured. This horrific terrorist attack comes at a time when ISIS is also expanding its presence in Qalamoun. There is some Sunni sympathy for these groups in Lebanon, particularly in the north and in Tripoli and Arsal, which will render the neutralization of global jihadist groups there that much harder.
Hezbollah is already fighting on the Syrian side of the Qalamoun and its forces will be stretched even thinner should it have to defend against attacks in its traditional strongholds in the Bekaa Valley. Many Hezbollah fighters will likely be killed and the party will be denounced by many Lebanese for bringing the jihadists to northern Lebanon.
**Nicholas Saidel is Associate Director of the Institute for Strategic Threat Analysis & Response (ISTAR) at the University of Pennsylvania. He tweets @nicksaidel

In South Lebanon and Dahiyeh, festivity and fear after Hezbollah strike
Ana Maria Luca & Alex Rowell/Lebanon Now
Published: 28/01/2015
Behind shows of festivity in predominantly pro-Hezbollah parts of Lebanon after killing of two Israeli soldiers, residents say they are anxious about escalation
Shortly before noon Wednesday, Mohammad was working in his village in South Lebanon, in the vicinity of the disputed Shebaa Farms, when he heard that there might be something happening on the border. Like everyone living in South Lebanon, he knew war between Israel and Hezbollah was always possible at any moment. It had seemed particularly possible in recent days after Israel’s 18 January air strike in Quneitra, a few kilometers away in the Syrian Golan Heights, which killed six Hezbollah members, including late senior Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh’s son, Jihad. Many southerners hoped neither Israel nor Hezbollah would choose this way of settling their dispute, especially given Hezbollah’s heavy involvement in the Syrian war, but Mohammad knew the prospect could never be ruled out.
When he heard Hezbollah had attacked an Israeli convoy in the Shebaa Farms, he took his coat, ran to his car and drove back home as fast as he could. His mother and father, both in their late 70s, were at home and all he wanted was to take them to Khiam, another village in South Lebanon, but further away from the border.
Mohammad, who asked for his precise location not to be mentioned, told NOW that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had shelled the hills around several villages in the area, including his. “The bags are packed. Fleeing to Beirut is an option, but we’re going to wait and see how serious this gets. They seem to have stopped now. We’ll see for how long,” he said.
Many people in South Lebanon, whether Hezbollah supporters or not, similarly fled their villages after the exchange of fire over the border. “My husband told me in the morning not to leave the house today,” a resident of the southern town of Nabatieh who asked not to be named told NOW. “He had a feeling something might happen after the strike in Golan,” she added. She said she realized that something “was wrong,” when she saw Lebanese Army convoys heading towards the mountains. “That’s when I turned on the TV. My first reaction was to check where the passports were,” she said. “May God allow it to just go away! It’s not a good time for Hezbollah to start this, when their troops are in Syria and they are weak. But that’s what Israel has always wanted; to have it easy,” she added.
A hundred kilometers north, in Dahiyeh, the predominantly pro-Hezbollah southern suburb of Beirut that was largely devastated by Israeli bombardment in 2006, the reaction of residents was ostensibly one of cheer. Celebratory gunshots were fired in the air, and several residents told NOW festive sweets were distributed.
“From the moment news of the operation broke I’ve been talking to my friends with feelings of great happiness,” Dahiyeh resident Mhamad Kleit told NOW, arguing it was Hezbollah’s right to respond to Israel’s attack against it, particularly in what he described as occupied Lebanese territory. “Personally, I am very happy with the reply [to the Quneitra strike].” “The people of Beirut’s southern suburb were awaiting with impatience the reply of the resistance against the Israeli assault that targeted a group of resisters in Quneitra, and today the reply came, and the people in the streets spontaneously expressed their happiness,” said Dahiyeh resident Hamza Khansa.
In addition to the show of joy, though, residents told NOW there were also anxieties about a repeat of the 2006 scenario. “Without doubt, there is wariness of things developing into open warfare, and the experience of Israel’s aggression in 2006 remains present in people’s minds,” Khansa told NOW. According to fellow Dahiyeh local Zoulfikar Harakeh, there are also reports of “a small proportion of Dahiyeh residents starting to pack up their belongings” in preparation for moving out of the neighborhood in the event of outright war.
“Of course I am scared,” said Racha el-Amine, a Dahiyeh resident and former NOW staffer. “My house faces a Hezbollah security center. If a war breaks out, my house is gone.”
Should it come to that, some residents fear their relocation options will be much fewer than they were in 2006, in light of the ongoing Syrian war and the sectarian frictions it has exacerbated.
“The problem is that the situation is different than 2006,” said Mohamad Mokdad. “Now, people can’t find refuge in Syria, and after the [May] 2008 incidents [when Hezbollah gunmen briefly stormed several Beirut neighborhoods] a lot of people will not welcome us.”
Yet for some, like El-Amine, remaining in Dahiyeh in the event of war is out of the question.
“Of course I’d move somewhere else. I’m not prepared to die for Hezbollah.”
Ana Maria Luca tweets @aml1609. Alex Rowell tweets @disgraceofgod
Myra Abdallah contributed reporting.

What did Hezbollah accomplish by attacking Israel?
Hanin Ghaddar/Lebanon Now/28/01/15
They know that the community cannot afford another war. They just need a symbolic victory.
Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah was not going to address his public this Friday without having a winning card. It would have been a complete embarrassment. But not speaking at all would have been worse. Today’s attack against the IDF was a risky but necessary retaliation by Hezbollah, serving an internal purpose to maintain its popularity. Since the Israeli strike on their convoy in Quneitra, Hezbollah has been in a deep trouble. They were aware of the risks of retaliation, but it seems the risks of not retaliating were much bigger. Their supporters have been desperately waiting for a victory — either in Syria or in Lebanon — for the past three years; that is, since they got involved in the war in Syria. It hasn’t happened. At the same time, the Resistance rhetoric was fading bit by bit and lately Shiites in Lebanon mention resistance only with nostalgia. Hezbollah’s statements have become increasingly embarrassing with each Israeli strike on either their own or Assad’s positions. Its rhetoric has changed from a heroic expression of dignity and victory to a more realistic one with redundant phrases such as “wisdom” and “the right time.” But Hezbollah cannot survive without heroism or victory, especially among its supporters, and this has been dragging them to dangerously low levels popularity.
That’s why Hezbollah’s retaliation against Israel was a difficult but an unescapable choice.
It could be that the decision to retaliate was Plan B. Just two days ago, Hezbollah’s media and officials filled our heads with statements and analyses on why it is necessary to wait and examine the situation before any retaliation.
Local newspapers reported State Minister Mohammad Fneish as saying during Thursday’s cabinet session that the Resistance has enough wisdom to choose “a response that takes into consideration Lebanon’s interests.” He also told Lebanese Tourism Minister Michel Faraoun that same day that the group was aware of the danger of dragging the country into another war with Israel.
Local websites in the South which target local communities and pro-Resistance outlets also praised Resistance leadership for taking time and space to make its decisions away from the pressure of friends and foes.
But this did not resonate well with Hezbollah’s supporters, who were too thirsty for an act of “resistance” that would bring back some of the lost dignity of the community and feed its nostalgia for the good old days, back when Shiites could brag about being the heroes of the Arab world.
After Hezbollah buried its martyrs, pressure from the community escalated. Some demanded that Hezbollah retaliate, others just assumed that they would and just couldn’t tone down their anticipation on social media and in public forums. Some simply spoke of disappointment.
Hezbollah and its media were saying one thing, while the community was in a different place. The gap between the two pushed Hezbollah to switch to Plan B. They had no other choice to avoid a major disenchantment with the “Resistance,” especially that the war in Syria will not end soon, and there is no victory in the horizon. On the contrary, more bodies in bags will be coming home from Syria.
Meanwhile, the economic situation of the Party of God could not be worse, so distractions with services and entertainment are not as abundant as they were before or after the 2006 War. The only thing Hezbollah has to offer the community these days is victory and heroism, and they’ve been difficult to come by in Syria.
Therefore, Hezbollah’s retaliation in the South served an internal purpose. Nasrallah can now deliver a wonderfully fiery, heroic speech on Friday, and finally give his supporters a taste of the victory they’re dying for (often literary).
But that’s exactly why Hezbollah will not get into a full-fledged war, 2006-style. They know that the community cannot afford another war. They just need a symbolic victory, not a real one. In the end, the outcome of today’s operation was not about tallying. Hezbollah killed two Israeli soldiers, while the Quneitra strike caused Hezbollah major losses in its ranks, in addition to Iranian generals, to say nothing of older unavenged losses such as Imad Mughnieh and Hassan al-Lakkis.
Another war with Israel would backfire. Shiites have nowhere to run like they did in 2006. The war in Syria has created many enemies for the Shiites. In addition, Hezbollah is stretched too thin between the South, the North, Syria and Iraq. They do not have the capacity to open more fronts. Last but not least, should a war break out that results in the scale of destruction we saw in 2006, Iran will not be able, this time, to rebuild and send financial aid for compensation.
Hezbollah has made a very risky choice; one that could have dragged all Lebanese into another war, and it did so just to regain some popularity among Shiites. For many Lebanese, taking that risk would be nearly unthinkable, but as far as Hezbollah’s leadership is concerned, it was more than worth it.
**Hanin Ghaddar is the managing editor of NOW. She tweets @hanin961

Hezbollah’s Stealth Invasion Of A Christian Heartland
Dr. Walid Phares/The Daily Caller
Christmas greetings from Hezbollah? That what some, including the Daily Star of Beirut, would have us believe about a series of visits by the Shia terrorist group to the heartland of the Christian Mount Lebanon during the holiday season. Hezbollah, armed and funded by Iran and part of Bashar al-Assad’s genocidal arsenal in the Syrian civil war — do not have peace and goodwill in mind, even as they pass out handshakes, smiles and holiday greetings to Christians. Slowly but surely, Hezbollah members are normalizing their physical presence in the “Christian wilaya” in what amounts to a soft invasion of an area crucial to dominating the whole of Lebanon.
Even though Hezbollah is fighting today in Iraqi and Syrian battlefields, its eyes are focused on every inch of land in Lebanon. Hezbollah was formed in early 1982 as part of the Iranian regime’s expansion in Lebanon. Its leaders were followers of Iran’s radical fundamentalist leader Ayatollah Khomeini, and its forces were trained and organized by a contingent of 1,500 Iranian Revolutionary Guards that arrived from Iran with permission from the Syrian government. Iran remains Hezbollah’s key backer and spiritual guide, pouring billions of dollars and increasingly sophisticated weaponry into the group, which the U.S. Institute of Peace rightly calls “the most successful example of the theocracy’s campaign to export its revolutionary ideals.”
According to the National Counterterrorism Center, “Hezbollah has been involved in numerous anti-US terrorist attacks, including the suicide truck bombings of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in April 1983, the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983, and the U.S. Embassy annex in Beirut in September 1984, as well as the hijacking of TWA 847 in 1985 and the Khobar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia in 1996.”
If that doesn’t make you feel warm and fuzzy, neither should the group’s holiday well-wishes in the Christian enclaves of Jbeil and Kesrwan. According to civil society groups’ reports, armed Hezbollah patrols are roaming these same Lebanese villages by night.
Christian Mount Lebanon is crucial to Hezbollah — and to Iran. It is among the last holdouts in their domination of Lebanon, giving them a way not only to challenge and threaten Israel, but to create a line of defense against Sunni extremists like ISIS.
Hezbollah has had a very successful “clear and hold” strategy of its own in Lebanon. They walked behind the Syrian tanks into Baabda in 1990, subdued the south in 2000, and marched into West Beirut in 2008. The last territory to be secured is northern Mount Lebanon. Overtaking the towns of Kesrwan and Jbeil, together with neighboring Batroun, would allow Hezbollah to control the vital coastal road from Dahiye to Tripoli, which includes two key ports that link Lebanon to the outside world, as well as the road from the sea to the summits overlooking the Bekaa. The problem is that this part of Mount Lebanon — and others as well — has a majority of Christian Lebanese who maintain an historical grievance with the Iranian-Assad-Hezbollah troika. They will fight to the last if it comes to it.**Walid Phares is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a Fox News contributor.

"Shame and scandal in Saudi Arabia."
Tarek Fatah/The Toronto Sun
January 27, 2015

There is a disgraceful spectacle unfolding in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in which some of the leading lights of the West are playing the role of medieval court jesters, singing platitudes to tyrants in a demonstration of subservience that shames the rest of us.
Ostensibly, the American, British, French and other European leaders travelled to the medieval monstrosity we call Saudi Arabia to offer condolences to the family of the late King Abdullah.
But the reality is different. They are there because the Saudis have money and oil.
On one hand the West claims it is fighting to destroy Islamic State (ISIS), yet it strengthens its ties with the very people who have spent an estimated $100 billion to spread Wahhabism, the foundational Islamist creed of ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida, Boko Haram and the Taliban.
The West is strengthening ties with the very people who have spent an estimated $100 billion spreading the foundational Islamist creed of ISIS.
How such statesmen and personalities of the free world as President Barack Obama, Prince Charles, French President Francois Hollande, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the Archbishop of Canterbury could be taken in by the Saudis is mind-boggling.
But the hypocrisy and chicanery of Western leaders has not gone unnoticed.
Alastair Crooke the former MI-6 agent and author of the book, Resistance: The Essence of Islamic Revolution, has been trying to educate Western Liberals.
Writing in the Huffington Post, Crooke says, "You Can't Understand ISIS If You Don't Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia."
Saying there is little difference between the Saudis the West supposedly admires and the Islamic State (ISIS) it is fighting, the former MI6 agent explains his argument by citing a historic slaughter the Saudis and their ISIS-like allies of the time committed:
Their (Saudi) strategy — like that of ISIS today — was to bring the peoples whom they conquered into submission. They aimed to instill fear ...
In 1801, the Allies (Saudis and Wahhabis) attacked the Holy City of Karbala in Iraq. They massacred thousands of Shiites, including women and children ... A British official, Lieutenant Francis Warden, observing the situation at the time, wrote: 'They pillaged the whole of it (Karbala) ... slaying in the course of the day, with circumstances of peculiar cruelty, above 5,000 of the inhabitants...'
While Crooke relied on history and his knowledge of the area to nudge Western leaders out of their intoxicated slumber, English author and former Conservative MP Louise Mensch launched a tirade on Twitter to express the feelings of millions of us in the West who felt betrayed by their leaders.
Liberal blogger Raif Badawi, perhaps the number one enemy of ISIS in the Kingdom, will be subjected to ritual torture by the Saudi state.
Mensch was furious when Cameron said he was "deeply saddened" by the Saudi king's death while Obama's boasted of his "friendship" with him.
She tweeted: "F--- you Saudi Arabia and shame on the supine male leaders of the West @David_Cameron @BarackObama #Freethe4 #JeSuisFemme".
The hashtag #Freethe4 was in reference to the four daughters of King Abdullah whom the Saudi tyrant had imprisoned under house arrest for many years.
As Western leaders lined up to pay homage to a new dictator in Riyadh, they pretended they didn't know that just two weeks before his death, Abdullah's government had lashed liberal Saudi blogger Raif Badawi 50 times for the "crime" of defending atheists. Up to 950 more lashes could await the brave Badawi.
While Prime Minister Stephen Harper also praised Abdullah upon his death, at least he knows cola in a can is the same thing as cola in a bottle.
**Tarek Fatah is a founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, a columnist at the Toronto Sun, host of a Sunday afternoon talk show on Toronto's NewsTalk1010 AM Radio, and a Robert J. and Abby B. Levine Fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is the author of two award-winning books: Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State and The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism.

Netanyahu: Iran denies Holocaust while it plots genocide against us
“The Jewish people will defend itself by itself against any threat. That’s what the Jewish state is all about,” PM Netanyahu says.
Benjamin Netanyahu
The United States is a close ally, but Israel must speak out against the danger of a negotiated deal with Iran, because the ultimate responsibility for securing the Jewish state rests on the government’s shoulders, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday.
“We are especially grateful for the bipartisan support for Israel across the United States, our great ally,” Netanyahu said at Yad Vashem during a ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“We share a special bond with the United States, which is built on common values, and it’s reflected in our expansive cooperation, especially on matters of security,” he said. “Yet it is the government of Israel that holds the ultimate responsibility for the security of the one and only Jewish state. We must speak our mind about the dangers to our people and our state. This is something we could not do at the time of the Holocaust.”
It was the third day in a row that Netanyahu spoke publicly about the danger of the interim agreement that six world powers – the US, Russia, China, France, Great Britain, and Germany – are negotiating with Iran in an attempt to halt the latter’s nuclear program. The world powers hope to finish negotiating by March 24 and follow with a permanent agreement by June.
Netanyahu has opposed the deal, which he said would allow Iran to remain a nuclear-threshold state. He has advocated increased sanctions instead.
He has been harshly criticized for playing partisan American politics and harming his relationship with US President Barack Obama by accepting an invitation by Republican House Speaker John Boehner to address a joint session of Congress on the need for more sanctions.
Netanyahu has said in response that he would go anywhere to protect the State of Israel.
On Tuesday at Yad Vashem, the prime minister drew a link between Nazi Germany and Iran. The regime in Tehran, he said, poses a genocidal threat to Jews akin to the Holocaust.
“The ayatollahs in Iran, they deny the Holocaust while planning another genocide against our people,” Netanyahu said.
“Israel will reject any agreement that leaves Iran as a nuclear- threshold state. Regrettably, our understanding is that the offer made by the P5+1 does exactly that,” Netanyahu said, referring to the world powers negotiating with Iran.
“It would enable Iran to break out a nuclear weapon within a few months, and many more bombs within a short time. The capabilities of Iran to produce enriched uranium for atomic bombs are left intact,” Netanyahu said.
“The Jewish people will defend itself by itself against any threat. That’s what the Jewish state is all about,” he added.
The prime minister also spoke about the growing threat of anti-Semitism, both to Jews around the world and to the State of Israel.
People believed that anti-Semitism would disappear after the Holocaust, he said. Instead, it has returned in “full force in Europe and around the world.
Jews live in fear as they are slandered, vilified, and targeted just for being Jews.”
The Jewish state, he continued, has similarly been assaulted with the “same slurs and libels that have been leveled at the Jews since time immemorial.”
Islamist extremists have incorporated anti-Semitism into their doctrines, Netanyahu continued, noting that the Hamas Charter reads like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The charter calls for “the murder of Jews and the destruction of their state,” he noted.
“Just as classic anti-Semites portrayed the Jew as the embodiment of all evil in the world, today’s anti-Semites portray the Jewish state in the same twisted manner,” he said.
In Syria, a quarter of a million people have been slaughtered so far in the civil war. Dictatorial regimes and brutal movements in the region have attacked their own people, enslaved women, lynched gays, and forced Christians to live in fear, he said, adding that Hamas had used its own people as human shields while firing thousands of rockets at Israeli citizens. Nevertheless, the international community, through the United Nations, has focused its attention on Israel.
The United Nations Human Rights Council concentrates on condemning Israel, and the International Criminal Court is weighing a request to open a case against the Jewish state, he said.
“No rational examination of the facts could justify this assault on Israel, the Middle East’s only democracy, the most beleaguered democracy on Earth,” he said. “This obsession with the Jewish people and its state has a name. It’s called anti-Semitism.”
But Jews have changed since the Holocaust and are no longer a stateless people dependent on others to protect them, he said. Today, Jews can speak out and defend themselves against their enemies.
“Nonetheless, we appreciate the support of our friends around the world who reject the spreading of the twin diseases of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. They’re one and the same,” Netanyahu said.
In a related event, US President Barack Obama, in Saudi Arabia for King Abdullah’s funeral, issued a statement in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The American people, he said, pays tribute to the six million Jews and the millions of others who were murdered by the Nazis.
Honoring the victims and survivors “demands from us the courage to protect the persecuted and speak out against bigotry and hatred,” Obama said.
“The recent terrorist attacks in Paris serve as a painful reminder of our obligation to condemn and combat rising anti-Semitism in all its forms, including the denial or trivialization of the Holocaust,” Obama said. “We pledge never to forget, and recall the cautionary words of the author and survivor of Auschwitz, Primo Levi: ‘It happened, therefore it can happen again.... It can happen anywhere.’ Today, we come together and commit, to the millions of murdered souls and all survivors, that it must never happen again.”

Israeli Army strikes targets in Syria; sirens blare in northern Golan
Ynetnews/Ahiya Raved /01.28.15 / Israel News
Air raid sirens sound in northern Golan for second time in a day; moments later IDF Spokesperson's Unit says warplanes attacked Syrian military artillery positions. Israeli Air Force warplanes attacked Syrian military targets shortly after midnight on Wednesday, as air raid sirens blared in the northern Golan Heights towns of El Rom, Neve Ativ, and several Druze villages. The IDF said no rockets had landed in Israeli territory and the military was investigating why the alarms sounded. Residents in the northern Golan Heights reported hearing air raid sirens at 12:33 am. The IDF Spokesperson's Unit announced the IAF strikes moments later and said that "the rocket fire is a flagrant violation of Israeli sovereignty. The IDF holds the Syrian regime as responsible for what occurs in its territory and will continue to operate as it sees fit to defend the citizens of the State of Israel. Direct hits on the targets were identified." Arab media outlets reported that artillery positions of the Syrian military's 90th brigade were attacked. Syrian opposition sources claimed that the sites targeted belonged to militias loyal to President Assad and affiliated with Hezbollah. Earlier in the day, two rockets exploded in the northern Golan Heights. The two projectiles were fired from Syrian territory. There were no casualties and no damages were reported. The IDF retaliated at the launch site with artillery fire.The Israeli Air Force raised its alert level of its flight squadrons on the northern front in response to the rocket fire from Syrian territory. Meanwhile, a senior military source said the two rockets were of the 107mm variety.
The source added that the IDF attacked the Syrian military launching pad and claimed that Hezbollah was responsible for the rocket fire. However, he emphasized that Israel "sees Syrian as responsible for all fire emanating from its territory."
**Yoav Zitun and Roi Kais contributed to this report.

On Iran, Congress plays its hand with a deadline of its own
By MICHAEL WILNER/J.Post/01/28/2015
WASHINGTON -- Several veto threats later, US President Barack Obama has succeeded in buying time for his diplomats to negotiate a political framework with Iran concerning its nuclear program— 52 days, to be exact.
From March 24 onwards, at least ten Democratic senators have committed their support for a bill that the president opposes: Legislation that will trigger new sanctions on Iran if international talks fail to reach a comprehensive accord. Unless that support frays, their commitments guarantee Senate passage of a bill with a minimum of 62 votes. How did we get here? Several factors converged at once: Infighting among Republican leaders, controversy over the Israeli prime minister, fierce lobbying from the White House, and an Israel lobby in Washington concerned, above all, with maintaining bipartisan congressional support. Since Senators Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) resurfaced their bill, the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015, in December, the White House has successfully politicized the issue. Republicans in the new Senate, alongside Menendez, supported the bill exclusively; Democrats supported the president. As the leaders of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the European Union all joined Obama in personally lobbying Democratic senators against the bill, Republican "egos," as one GOP aide said, compromised inter-party support. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), the new Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, had their own ideas as to how to pressure Iran. Their support for Menendez-Kirk was tepid at best. Partisan divisions are not typical on Iran legislation, which has, in the past, garnered 90 percent of Congress' support. Timing makes this effort different: The controversial bill is under consideration as unprecedented negotiations enter the eleventh hour. Democrats will not play the spoiler for their own president on an issue over which the executive has prerogative powers. The strength of pro-Israel lobbies in the United States— the pillars of their influence— is in their reliable, consistent bipartisan support. A sudden political rupture, with Obama one on side and Netanyahu on the other, shook that foundation. And so the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and its allies in Washington, had to compromise: In order to maintain bipartisan support, Democrats needed more time. 52 days, to be exact. That isn't a whole lot of time, in legislative terms. A vote may have taken place, at the very earliest, around mid-February; the House still needs to pass its own bill, and the two chambers have to conference their versions. The process takes months. So those in favor of the bill consider this a victory. By granting the president until March to reach a political agreement, they have secured the bipartisan support required to maintain legitimacy in the debate.
The greatest question now remains one, ultimately, left to the Iranians: Whether a political agreement will be clinched before the 24th.
Because, as State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a briefing with reporters on Tuesday: "If there’s a framework agreement, why would there be sanctions legislation put in place?"

Israel must think hard about its response to latest Hezbollah attack
Ron Ben-Yishai/Ynetnews
01.28.15, / Israel Opinion
Analysis: The Israeli defense establishment must decide whether to let Hezbollah feel it has now settled scores and restore calm, or to respond harshly and possily prevent further similar attacks in the future.
Hezbollah's attack on an IDF vehicle on the northern border Wednesday morning is a clear escalation, and one that requires careful consideration.
Does Israel now enter into a broader conflict with Hezbollah or should it let it go on the grounds that this is Hezbollah settling their account with us? It's cruel to say, but this is frequently this way: When they have shed enough Israeli blood, they will have apparently responded sufficiently enough to stop.
IDF responds to Hezbollah fire.
On the other hand, Israel must consider the fact that if it does not act now, and harshly, it may well see similar events in the future. At this stage, the IDF top brass, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Prime Minister Nenjamin Netanyahu are facing a real dilemma.
This latest Hezbollah attack comes in the wake of rocket fire on northern Israel from Syria. A senior military source said that Hezbollah was behind the attack from the Syrian Golan towards Mount Hermon and the area of the Merom Golan community. Hezbollah is responsible, but its people were not necessarily the ones who actually fired.
The rocket fire was likely carried out on behalf of the "axis" (Iran-Syria-Hezbollah) as part of the retaliation for the an strike last Sunday attributed to Israel. The rocket were likely not fired into Israel by Hezbollah men or Syrians, but by their messengers, apparently in order to cover their tracks so that the Israeli response would not be too strong.
In any event, the Israeli response Tuesday was quick to come. The purpose of the IDF's late-night strike was to make it clear once again to Iran, Hezbollah and Syria that Israel will not accept a new front on the Golan. This was made clear by attacks on Syrian army posts (the 90th Brigade) in an enclave they still control in the New Quneitra area and northern Golan Heights.
The strike intended to signal that the Assad regime could lose the only outposts it still controls on the Golan, if Hezbollah continues to launch terror attacks and high-trajectory fire against Israel from that area. The threat is concrete and is aimed at making the Iranians and Syria reconsider their intention to let Hezbollah operate against Israel from Syrian territory.
In simple words, in Tuesday night's strike Israel raised the stakes that Hezbollah and its Iranian patrons are forced to consider if they continue operating from the Golan. The possibility of a deterioration in such a situation is increasing.
And back to Tuesday's rocket fire. In the two previous incidents in which rockets were fired in response to Israel strikes, the Hermon was also attacked with 107-milimitter rockets, which are relatively small and are fired from a small launcher.
Hezbollah, the Iranians and the Syrians are walking on thin ice here. They want to retaliate by causing damage and losses to Israel, but at the same time – and they are saying it out loud – they want to avoid a flare-up which will develop into an all-out war, whether at once or as a result of a deterioration of an act of revenge or an Israeli response and another act of revenge, and so on and so forth.
What happens in our region sometimes, like in Operation Protective Edge and the Second Lebanon War, is that both sides mean one thing but something else happens, something that is almost always far worse and more harmful for both sides than initially estimated. And that usually happens because of a miscalculation.
Tuesday's rocket fire in the Golan, therefore, intentionally targeted open areas. There were only a few hits on the Israeli side, far from any real target. The rockets were fired so that they would be detected by radar, trigger the air raid sirens and create sounds of explosions.
It's reasonable to assume that the rockets or mortar shells were placed by members of a Palestinian or Syrian organization who are cooperation with the Assad regime. That was the case in previous incidents and that was likely the case on Tuesday as well.
Another main purpose of the rocket fire was to show that even if Israel wanted – through its alleged strike early last week – to thwart the establishment of a second front in the Golan, it failed. The rocket fire proves that the front is active, alive and kicking.
So what were the shooters trying to achieve? We must be cautious because it's hard to reach clear conclusion as a result of one incident. But from the nature of the fire and the small number of rockets, we can cautiously estimate that the Hezbollah-Iran-Syrian axis is trying to retaliate by creating constant tension and a permanent state of alert on the Lebanon border and in the Golan Heights. The constant tension and the IDF's heightened state of alert are claiming a heavy economic and moral price, even if there are no casualties.
This method of retaliation does have an advantage, however: The IDF will not respond powerfully, but moderately, as long as there are no deaths among IDF soldiers and Israel's citizens.
The heightened state of alert in the north is costing the IDF a lot of money, affecting the training programs and consuming hundreds of flight hours for fighter jets and other aircrafts, which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a day.
In the civilian area, the tourism to the Hermon ski resort and Golan guesthouses is suffering heavy damage, the residents cannot lead a routine life and their morale is damaged.
This is all achieved by Hezbollah, Syria and Iran very easily: Occasionally, they send five or six gunmen to the border area, on the Lebanese side. These men are detected on the radar screen on the Lebanon border and then disappear. They fire two or three rockets, one to Mount Hermon in order to drive away the skiers, and one to Merom Golan in order to drive away the zimmer guests and wine lovers, and achieve their goal without being punished.
And the proof is that Israel's response to Tuesday's rocket fire was moderate. Twenty artillery shells towards the source of fire hardly cause any damage or losses on the other side. The IDF fired at the sources of fire, the place where the rockets or mortar shells were fired from, but it's quite reasonable to assume that whoever launched the rockets used an electric timer, while the activists themselves escaped to a safe place much earlier.
Assad wants Israel involved in civil war
This type of retaliation, which is mainly aimed at economically wearing out the residents of the Lebanon border area and the Golan and impact on their morale, challenges Israel because it's hard to plan a suitable deterrent response while maintaining "proportionality." The international community will find it difficult to accept an extensive Israeli military blow in response to two rockets that did not cause any casualties.
This restriction stems not only from concerns over the international public opinion, but also because Israel doesn’t want to respond intensely on Syrian territory and get involved in the civil war there. That's exactly what Syrian President Bashar Assad wants, and it would serve his purposes in the Arab world.
We should remember one more thing: Tuesday's rocket fire was only the first course, an exhausting but not fatal act of revenge, which the axis can execute in no time and without any problems through its messengers.
It's safe to assume that it won't end here and that we will see more serious acts of revenge matching the blow the Iranians and Hezbollah were hit with last Sunday.