JERUSALEM – Israeli forces launched a series of preemptive military strikes against Hizbullah targets in Lebanon this week with the goal of preventing future missile attacks aimed at major Israeli population centers and terror operations against citizens traveling along one of Israel’s main transportation arteries. Israel also raided a covert West Bank Hamas cell with the same objective in mind.
Several Arab media sources, including the authoritative Lebanon Daily Star, reported that an undetermined number of IAF fighter bombers launched nighttime raids against one of Hizbullah’s largest military bases in the Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border.
IAF jets and advanced drones have been aggressively monitoring the transfer of advanced Russian and Iranian made weaponry from Syria to Hizbullah bases in Lebanon. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, at the behest of Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanders, has been trying to supply Hizbullah with so-called game-changing weapons, such as sophisticated anti-ship missiles and long-range ballistic missiles. This weaponry, which could also be armed with crude chemical weapons, is capable of hitting any target inside Israel. According to many Western sources, Assad has ignored the UN agreement mandating him to dismantle his entire stockpile of chemical weapons. He reportedly still possesses several tons of lethal chemical agents.
Though the IDF refused to acknowledge the attack, the IAF sortie would be the sixth known combat operation performed against Hizbullah/Syrian targets during the past year and a half. As speculation rises about a possible Hizbullah response to ongoing Israeli operations against the transfer of advanced weapons, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said on Monday that Iran was playing a dangerous game in the region by “passing fiery torches to pyromaniacs.” Observers believe that he was referring to the Syrian government, Hizbullah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah is currently in the midst of fighting battles on two fronts – against various anti-Assad groups in Syria, and against al Qaeda units operating in the heart of Hizbullah strongholds in Beirut, Tripoli and southern Lebanon.
Meanwhile, it is being reported that the Shin Bet and special undercover Israeli police units recently raided the village of Beit Ur Tachta and arrested more than a dozen suspects with alleged ties to Hamas. They were accused of being in the advanced planning stages of launching roadside bomb attacks against IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens traveling along Road #443, the nation’s second longest road that runs between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Several other terror suspects were arrested in recent weeks for tossing Molotov cocktails and stones from the village’s plateaus onto passenger cars and buses operating along the route below.
Road #443 starts at the Ben Shemen Forest behind the city of Modiin, crosses the Green Line at the nearby Maccabim Security Checkpoint and ends at the entrance to Jerusalem. A number of Arab villages, including Beit Ur Tachta, are located along this road. The citizens of these villages carry Palestinian Authority identity cards, but are under complete IDF military jurisdiction.
Sources close to the Israel-PA peace negotiations say that the Palestinians are demanding that Israel surrender Road #443 as part of a final peace agreement. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the IDF have balked at the request, as Road #443 is one of only two major roadways running between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv (Road #1 is the other). The IDF operates a series of military patrols and high-resolution camera towers along Road #443 in order to monitor activities in the Palestinian villages. Many village residents cross the Green Line at the Maccabim Security Checkpoint every weekday morning to work at construction sites in Modiin, Kiryat Sefer (Modiin Illit), and Shoham.