Rockets From Lebanon Hit Israeli Border Town

By Nathan Jeffay

Published January 08, 2009, issue of January 16, 2009.
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Haifa, Israel — Israelis started the day with news that three Katyusha rockets had been fired over the Israel-Lebanon border, landing in the coastal town of Nahariya. One of the rockets hit a nursing home, leaving one resident with a broken leg, one with bruises, and others in shock.

The IDF responded with artillery fire towards the launch sites, south of the Litani river in an area under the responsibility of the United Nations peacekeeping force, or UNFIL, and the Lebanese regular army, though the ability of UNFIL to control the area is widely questioned.

Since Operation Cast Lead began in Gaza on December 27, there have been fears in Israel that Hezbollah would open up a second front of fighting — attacking Israel’s northern border, which has been quiet since Second Lebanon War. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has delivered tough-talking speeches, and just yesterday said that “all possibilities” are open against Israel.

For a few minutes after this morning’s attack, some feared that this scenario was unfolding. But according to reports, the rockets were launched by a small militia group — probably comprised of some of Lebanon’s almost half-million Palestinians, most of who are deeply angered by the Gaza operation. Israel described the rocket attacks as an “isolated event.”

Some security experts see it as a case of Iran flexing its muscles through Hezbollah, which itself used a proxy. Others believe that those behind the attack were not acting as a proxy for Hezbollah, but neither was Hezbollah unaware that rockets were on their way to Israel.

Either scenario seems to be a way of Hezbollah not appearing inactive as Palestinians are under attack in Gaza, all the while avoiding provoking Israeli response or jeopardizing its newly acquired status in the Lebanese government.

Northern towns are busy preparing their bomb shelters “just in case” and the IDF has an increased presence on the northern border, ready to act not only against rockets but also an attempted kidnapping or an attempted breach to the border fence. That could change in the next 24 hours, but it seems at the moment that neither Hezbollah nor Israel has anything to gain by opening up the Israel-Lebanon border.

Both sides have declared at various times since the 2006 conflict that the consequences of doing so would be worse than they were then. Hezbollah is keen not to bring fighting to Lebanon, and Israel is unenthusiastic about the possibility of fighting on two fronts at the same time.

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