Amid rising tensions in the region, the Army bombs Lebanon for the first time in seven years
Israel reacted on Thursday to the inauguration of Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, with a reminder of its military capabilities and the warning that the country is prepared to attack the enemy wherever he may be. Israel’s Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, denounced that Iran “is increasing its forces in Lebanon and Gaza, deploying militias in Syria and Iraq and keeping its followers in Yemen.” “Iran is a global and regional problem and a challenge for Israel,” he told the newspaper ‘Yedioth Ahronoth’.
After being asked if the country is prepared to adopt military measures, Gantz replied with a terse “yes”. “We have to continue developing our capacities to deal with these threats at the borders. When Islamic Jihad attacks Israel from Gaza, it does so with the support and at the request of Iran, “he argued.
Shortly before this interview was made public, the Israeli Army had announced the launch of air strikes over southern Lebanon in response to rockets fired at its territory from the neighboring country. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) specified that they had bombed “a terrorist infrastructure”, in addition to Lebanese areas “from which rockets were fired at the State of Israel” the day before, and a facility that was used to fire rockets at the country in the past. Following the attacks, no deaths or injuries were reported.
Israeli aviation regularly bombs positions of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip and also carries out operations in neighboring Syria, where it attacks targets of pro-Iranian elements. But its last known airstrikes in Lebanon dated back to 2014, following an exchange of fire near the Syrian border.
The statement did not specify whether the army was seeking to attack positions of the Shiite Hezbollah militia or other groups. The last time Israel attacked Hezbollah’s stronghold in southern Lebanon was in 2006.
Gantz had asked on Wednesday, when rockets fired from the neighboring country fell on Israeli territory, that a “firm message” be sent to UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, deployed in the south of the country on the border with Israel.
Present in Lebanon since 1978, UNIFIL has been monitoring the demarcation since 2006, coordinated with the Lebanese Army, and oversees the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1701, adopted after the war between Israel and Hezbollah. Yesterday, the commander of the UN mission, General Stefano Del Col, held a tripartite meeting with the military officials of the two countries in which he requested respect for their coordinating role.
The increase in tension on the border with Lebanon adds to the new front opened last week in the wake of an attack on the ‘Mercer Street’ oil tanker, a ship managed by the company of an Israeli billionaire, in the Arabian Sea. Gantz said that there are ongoing talks with the United States and other allies about the “reaction” to the “recent Iranian aggressions”, in reference to the drone attack, for which Iran has denied any responsibility.
The ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raisi is already in charge of the Islamic republic, replacing the moderate Hasan Rohani. And although in his inauguration speech he offered a conciliatory attitude yesterday, by ensuring that his government will work to promote peace and stability in the region, he sowed concern by ensuring that his country will not remain silent in the face of “oppression and crime.” wherever it occurs, “whether in the heart of Europe and America or in Africa, Yemen, Syria, Palestine or within its borders.
The truth is that Iran now faces other problems that demand its full attention. Protests over electricity cuts and the lack of basic products and vaccines are growing every day and international sanctions prevent a satisfactory response to the population.