Israel, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda: the war in the Golan Heights

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The Zionist settler state of Israel has made clear that it intends to increase its military involvement in southern Syria, against the resistance axis of Hezbollah, the Syrian government, Iran and Palestinian militants, and in a tacit alliance with Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch, Jabhat Al Nusra (JN). Israeli drones launched an unprovoked drone strike on Hezbollah soldiers on 18 January near the Syrian town of Quneitra, killing eight, including an Iranian general. After further Israeli strikes on Syrian positions, Hezbollah retaliated, killing two Israeli soldiers. Following this, Israeli attacks on southern Lebanon killed a Spanish UN soldier. With the major imperialist powers taking steps to normalise relations with Iran, and giving qualified support to peace negotiations involving the Syrian government, Israel sees attacks on Syria and Hezbollah as the best way to reassert its own interests.

Israel and Hezbollah

The Golan Heights is internationally recognised as Syrian territory, most of which was illegally occupied by Israel in 1967. The Quneitra attack was confirmed by the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) stationed at the ceasefire line between the Israeli-occupied Golan and the Syrian Golan. Eight people were killed including: Mohammed Issa, a Hezbollah commander; Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of a top Hezbollah commander assassinated by Israel in Damascus in 2008; Ali Reza Al Tabatabai, an Iranian adviser to Hezbollah; and Iranian Brigadier General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi. In its usual slippery fashion, the Israeli government has neither confirmed nor denied whether it was responsible for the strike, but it was quickly unofficially confirmed.

It is unclear whether Israel knew who was in the convoy. It has been suggested by Hezbollah intelligence sources that Israel tracked General Ali Allahdadi using his mobile phone. If so, the strike is clearly a provocative attempt to undermine the recent dealings between the NATO imperialists and Iran. The Israeli war machine has also been gearing up for war with Hezbollah for months. Soon after Israel’s massacre in Gaza in the summer of 2014, an Israeli news report declared that the military was preparing for a ‘very violent war’ against Hezbollah (Times of Israel, 6 September 2014). A more recent report from Israel’s Maariv newspaper quoted Israeli intelligence sources as warning that the coming war ‘will be the heaviest in modern history and unprecedented’ (Daily Star (Lebanon) 14 January). Days before the Quneitra attack, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, responding to constant Israeli threats, warned Israel about future attacks on Syria. Israel seems eager to provoke another war, driven by its insatiable military industry and racist, supremacist politics. Hezbollah’s response, two days after Israel’s strike, was measured, and targeted at the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms. Whatever the intended target, the Israeli strike must be seen in the context of the upcoming elections in Israel. It is likely that the strike would have required approval from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and such a provocative move would bolster his national standing as a leader serious about Israel’s ‘national security’.

Israel and Al Qaeda

Israel frequently cites the jihadist threat from Syria as justification for its continued interventions. However, these same jihadists are benefiting from Israel’s attacks. Syrian positions bombed by Israel in the past have been taken by JN soon afterwards. Indeed, evidence of direct co-operation between Israel and rebel groups active in southern Syria – an area dominated by JN – has emerged in a report from the UNDOF. The report, relating to the first half of 2014 but only published in December, explains that the, ‘UNDOF frequently observed armed members of the opposition interacting with IDF [Israeli Defence Force] across the ceasefire line’. It continues that on 59 occasions ‘UNDOF observed armed members of the opposition transferring 89 wounded persons’ to the IDF, and the IDF in turn, ‘handing over 19 treated and two deceased individuals’. It goes on to expose Israel’s role in equipping the rebels: ‘On one occasion, UNDOF observed IDF on the Alpha side handing over two boxes to armed members of the opposition’. Following the period covered by this report, members of the UNDOF from the Philippines and Fiji were taken hostage by JN. This is the rebels’ ‘Southern Front’ against the Syrian government, where the US and Britain have been revealed to be supporting rebel groups. The region is now largely under the control of JN working in alliance with other rebels – deemed ‘moderates’ by the imperialists. JN now controls the only border crossing into Israeli Occupied Territory. Israel’s apparent concern about the threat it faces from jihadists is exposed as empty rhetoric, when it is supporting, equipping and treating these same forces to attack Hezbollah and Syria.

As we go to press, the situation has calmed down on Israel’s north and eastern borders. For all those involved, decisions to launch further attacks are delicate, complex and dangerous. Hezbollah are stretched in their support for the Syrian government against IS, JN and other rebel groups, as well as their engagement in increasing conflict in Lebanon. Iran, currently suffering from low oil prices after years of imperialist sanctions, but with an improving international position, does not want a war with Israel. Israel knows a war with Hezbollah would be difficult to win – the group is heavily armed and well-trained, and forced an Israeli retreat in their 2006 invasion of Lebanon. However, there is just one constant in the history of the Zionist occupation – aggressive, brutal, expansionist warfare.

Toby Harbertson

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 243 February/March 2015