“Terrified” Israel escalates attacks across region

26 August 2019 — The Electronic Intifada

By Ali Abunimah

Israel is escalating its attacks across the region, with bombing and drone raids in recent days in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri called a suspected Israeli drone attack in Beirut over the weekend “a threat to regional stability and an attempt to push the situation towards further tension.”

Last week, US officials confirmed that Israel was responsible for a series of attacks in Iraq on sites belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces.

The officials said that the targets included a weapons depot near Baghdad that the Israelis claim was being used by Iran to move weapons to Syria.

A Popular Mobilization Forces fighter was killed in the latest suspected Israeli attack on Sunday.

These are the first known Israeli bombing raids on Iraq in four decades.

However Israel does not typically take responsibility for attacks.

Known in Arabic as al-Hashd al-Shaabi, the Popular Mobilization Forces is an Iranian-supported Iraqi militia that was instrumental in the effort to defeat the Islamic State group also known as ISIS.

And on Saturday Israeli warplanes attacked a site near the Syrian capital Damascus. Israel claimed that it preempted an imminent drone attack by Iranian forces.

The Lebanese resistance organization Hizballah said however that the Israeli attack was actually against a house used by its fighters, and two of the group’s members were killed.

Israel has bombed Syria dozens of times during the country’s civil war.

Then over the weekend, Lebanon said two Israeli drones fell on its territory in a failed attack on a Hizballah media office in the southern suburb of Beirut.

On Sunday, Hizballah leader Hasan Nasrallah promised that resistance forces would shoot down any Israeli drones that entered Lebanon and would defend the country against Israeli raids.

“Hizballah will not allow such an aggression,” Nasrallah said in a televised address. “The time when Israeli aircraft come and bombard parts of Lebanon is over.”

1. Thread analysing Nasrallah’s speech: This is the first time Hizbullah has ever detailed its planned response to Israeli aggression. Because Israel has changed the ROEs and imposed new phase on Lebanon, Hizbullah’s response will be three-pronged and qualitatively different

— Amal Saad (@amalsaad_lb)

August 25, 2019

2. Most significant change will be that Hizbullah will no longer be constrained by domestic front. In a departure from past practice, it will shoot down any Israeli drones over Lebanon. It will be impervious to any internal pressure by rivals who oppose this preventive strategy

— Amal Saad (@amalsaad_lb)

August 25, 2019

3. It won’t stop at preventive measures against future drone strikes, but will retaliate for today’s attack by destabilizing Israel’s Northern border and beyond. This could entail drone strikes it will launch on Israel proper, that could target military, economic or other sites

— Amal Saad (@amalsaad_lb)

August 25, 2019

4. It will no longer confine response to attacks on Hizbullah fighters in Syria to Shebaa, but will attack Israeli soldiers across Lebanon’s border, or well beyond it. This could mean ambushes of border patrols or attacks on military bases and installations inside Israel proper

— Amal Saad (@amalsaad_lb)

August 25, 2019

In 2006, Hizballah dealt Israel a major strategic defeat when its forces invaded the country, an attack on Lebanon tacitly supported by Saudi Arabia.

A coalition of Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia has in recent years solidified its overt and covert alliance with Israel against Iran and its allies.

The Israeli attacks continued on Monday with Israeli warplanes bombing a base of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command in eastern Lebanon.

The Palestinian group, distinct from the similarly named Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, has been fighting on the side of the government in Syria’s civil war.

Supporting al-Qaida

There is a consistent logic to the Israeli attacks across the region: to limit the influence of Iran and Iranian-supported military organizations that Israel fears could challenge its unchecked dominance of the region.

The Israeli strategy has been to directly or indirectly support any enemy of Iran, including by arming jihadist groups in Syria linked to al-Qaida.

In 2016, for instance, Efraim Halevy, the former head of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, acknowledged that Israel was giving assistance al-Qaida-linked fighters in Syria.

He said that while the al-Qaida-affliated Nusra Front was an enemy of Israel’s enemy Hizballah, Israel was “not specifically targeted by al-Qaida.”

The US, under the Obama administration, also supplied massive amounts of weaponry to rebel groups in Syria, much of which ended up in the hands of al-Qaida and even ISIS.

US weapons supplied via Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are now reportedly reaching al-Qaida affiliates in Yemen.

Israel “worried and scared”

“In my own lifetime Israel has bombed Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and it has also downed a Libyan civilian airliner,” California State University professor As’ad AbuKhalil said last week after the US confirmed Israel had bombed Iraq.

“The story of Israeli covert and overt destruction and terrorism in the Mideast region is a very old story,” AbuKhalil told Aaron Maté on Pushback. “The only surprising thing about it is how little coverage it gets here in the United States.”

AbuKhalil also accused the Iraqi government, which still allows US occupation forces to operate freely in the country, of downplaying the Israeli attacks.

“The people who defeated ISIS in Syria and Iraq were the foes of the United States,” AbuKhalil said. “These are the Hashd militias inside Iraq.”

“And in Syria it was the foes of the United States who largely defeated ISIS,” AbuKhalil added. “So the natives are the ones who did the actual fighting and dying in the war against ISIS.”

According to AbuKhalil, Israel is “worried and scared” because of the defeat it suffered at the hands of Hizballah in 2006.

“And Israel is also terrified that maybe these militias in Southern Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen are going to become formidable enemies of the State of Israel,” AbuKhalil said, referring to groups that it is widely claimed are, like Hizballah, supported by Iran.

Watch the full interview with AbuKhalil above.

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