Israel on high alert for possible Hezbollah retaliation
Jan. 20, 2015
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel has gone on high alert for possible attacks by Hezbollah, Israeli defense officials said Wednesday, beefing up its air defenses and increasing surveillance along its northern frontier following an airstrike in Syria that killed six members of the Lebanese militant group and an Iranian general.
Hezbollah has accused Israel of carrying out Sunday's airstrike, which occurred on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. Israel, which is believed to be behind a number of airstrikes in Syria in recent years, has neither confirmed nor denied involvement.
The Israeli officials said that the "Iron Dome" anti-rocket defense system has been deployed near the Syrian and Lebanese borders as a precautionary measure. Israel's Security Cabinet is scheduled to meet to discuss a potential escalation in violence, they said.
Israel and Hezbollah are bitter enemies and fought a bloody monthlong war in the summer of 2006. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss security deliberations publicly.
Among the dead in the airstrike was Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of Imad Mughniyeh — a top Hezbollah operative who was assassinated in 2008 in Damascus in a bombing that Hezbollah blamed on Israel. Thousands of mourners attended his funeral Monday in Beirut.
In south Lebanon, thousands of Hezbollah supporters on Tuesday swarmed around the yellow-draped coffin of Mohammad Issa, a Hezbollah commander who also died in the airstrike. Issa was the highest-ranking among the group, and was among the senior cadres who headed the group's operations in Syria.
Around 10,000 supporters took part in his funeral in the southern Lebanese village of Arab Salim. Mourners fired their guns in the air and shouted anti-Israel slogans.
Since Syria's civil war began in March 2011, Israel has reportedly carried out several airstrikes in Syria that have targeted sophisticated weapons systems, including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles, believed to be destined for Hezbollah.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in an interview last week, said Hezbollah reserves the right to retaliate for those attacks. He also reiterated that Hezbollah may retaliate at any time for the assassination of the elder Mughniyeh.