by Adam Gonn
JERUSALEM, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) -- Two rockets fired from Lebanon landed close to the northern Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona early Sunday morning, causing no injuries. The incident is the first of its kind since four rockets were fired from Lebanon in August, however this time the attack took place further east and closer to Syria along the Israel-Lebanon border.
Israel responded to the attack immediately by shelling the area from which the attack originated.
No group has officially taken responsibility for the attack. However, analysts here believe that whoever carried out the attack, they tried to involve Israel in the ongoing crisis in Syria, where the Hezbollah, with whom Israel has fought a number of wars, is currently fighting alongside the Syrian government against the Sunni Islamic rebels.
Yoram Schweitzer, a researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, told Xinhua on Sunday while it hasn' t been confirmed who launched the rockets, there have been a number of similar attacks in the past -- often carried out by a local Sunni Jihadi group against the wish of Hezbollah and the Lebanese army.
This could very well be the case for the attack on Sunday morning, he said.
"It seems to me that it is similar to what happened a couple of months ago when rockets were launched and it was attributed to a local Jihadist group, not Hezbollah; a Sunni Salafist Jihadist element and it seems to be the same (scenario this time)," Schweitzer said.
He added that when Israel "retaliated it signaled to the Lebanese government and Hezbollah that they better control (the situation along the border). I think they will do it. But whether they will be successful we will have to wait and see."
Hezbollah's involvement in Syria alongside the Shiite Islamic fighter from Iran and the Alawite Syrian regime means that the organization has become an enemy of the Sunni Islamic global Jihad groups.
One possibility is that a Jihad group launched the attack in order to get Israel to attack Hezbollah and maybe even launch a large scale attack that would force Hezbollah to divert some of its troops from Syria back to Lebanon. However, since neither Israel nor Hezbollah are interested in fighting a war at the moment, such a development appears unlikely.
Hezbollah has always portrayed itself as a Lebanese organization whose main focus was to protect Lebanon from Israel. However, as its engagement in Syria has increased, Hezbollah has come under increased criticisms from its political opponents but also its supporters, who doubt the participation in Syria, where the number of Hezbollah fighters dying continues to rise.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar, of the Bar-Ilan University, said that one possibility could be that it indeed was a Jihadist organization that was behind the attack, but he argued that it could very well have been carried out by Hezbollah, either direct or indirect.
"I suspect that it was actually Hezbollah. Why, because on Friday there was a blast in Beirut which was the assassination of Hezbollah's opponent," Kedar said, referring to the killing of Mohammad Chatah, a former Finance Minister and opponent of Hezbollah.
"Now everybody blames Hezbollah for assassinating him. Hezbollah wants now to escalate the situation with Israel to show that Israel is the problem and not Hezbollah," he added.
Kedar outlined a scenario in which the attack was something that was arranged by Hezbollah on a low scale, in order not to cause a large scale war with Israel. Because, he argued, Hezbollah currently doesn't want a full-scale allout war with Israel, but still they want to invoke Israel and deflect some of the criticism it is facing towards Israel. So by creating a scenario where Israel strikes Lebanon, Hezbollah can state that it is Israel the problem and not themselves.
The relative quiet along the border should very well continue, according to Schweitzer. However, if his assessment is correct and the attack on Sunday was carried out by global Jihadists, Israel could face more and more similar attacks.
This is because the global jihadists would like to drag Israel into the conflict. They will launch attacks from Lebanon and Syria, he argued.
Unlike Hezbollah or Hamas in Gaza, these global Jihadist groups have no loyalty or responsibility for the local population of the area they operate, and they are only focused on their own goals, Schweitzer said, adding that these groups don't have to fear any criticism if their attacks lead to a larger conflict.
UN official slams rockets attack at Israel from Lebanon
BEIRUT, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) -- Commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) General Paolo Serra described the firing of 2 rockets from Lebanon towards Israel on Sunday as a very serious incident aimed at undermining the stability in the region.
Two Grad type 107 mm missiles fired from southern Lebanon towards Israel missed their target and exploded on Lebanese territory on Sunday. Full story
Israeli artillery strikes Lebanon following rocket fire
JERUSALEM, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) -- The Israeli-Lebanese border flared Sunday morning as rockets fired from southern Lebanon hit Israel's border town of Kiryat Shmona and the Israeli military responded with artillery fire.
Four Katyusha rockets were fired toward Kiryat Shmona, two of which exploded in open areas west of the town, while another two missed their target and exploded in Lebanese territory, Israeli media reported. Full story