| 20 April 2024, Saturday |

Is Iran behind Lebanon rocket fire – and is this the new normal?

On Tuesday morning, rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel in a new escalation, and sirens sounded in the Western Galilee as two rockets were detected.

During the recent Gaza war, four rockets were fired from Lebanon on May 19.

Although the Iron Dome air-defense system shot down one of the rockets and the other fell harmlessly in Tuesday’s attack, it raises questions about whether rocket fire from Lebanon will now increase and become an accepted norm.

The IDF responded to the attack by using artillery fire, it said, adding that Home Front Command special guidelines have not been issued. This appears to mean the assessment is that there won’t be new barrages soon, it wasn’t part of a major attack, and more retaliation may not take place so as not to increase tensions.

In May, during the fighting in the Gaza Strip, there were several incidents in the North. Besides the four rockets fired on May 19, several of which traveled many kilometers into Israel, there was also an incident on May 17, when sirens sounded in Kibbutz Misgav Am and six failed launches were detected. In response, IDF artillery forces fired toward the launch sources.

On May 13, “three rockets were fired from Lebanon into the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of the Galilee,” the IDF said. “According to protocol, no sirens were sounded.”

In addition, there have been other incidents. The IDF has had to deal with drone threats from the North, including one that entered Israel in May from Syria, attempts to damage the security fence and a smuggling operation that was thwarted in early July.

The new rocket fire came hours after Syrian regime media reported airstrikes in As-Safira in northern Syria, an area near Aleppo that is thought to have a missile facility. Syrian air defenses were activated as a result.

Was the rocket fire from Lebanon in response to the airstrikes?

“I think the rocket launches from Lebanon [early Tuesday] did not take place because of the international situation in Lebanon, which is collapsing [economically], but due to the Hamas-Iran-Hezbollah alliance and in the wake of the Guardian of the Walls [operation in Gaza in May],” said Sarit Zehavi, CEO and founder of the Alma Research and Education Center, which focuses on security challenges on the northern border.

During the May fighting, groups in the region that are linked to Iran and often call themselves a “resistance axis” said they would join in fighting against Israel based on the situation in Jerusalem, she told The Jerusalem Post. This could include Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and militias in Syria and Iraq, she said, adding: “They are all subordinate to the Iranians, who created this campaign.”

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah met the leader of Hamas in late June, Zehavi said. The symbols at that meeting, such as the Dome of Rock in Jerusalem, indicate their view of the region and their decision to confront Israel, she said. This means the rocket launches from Lebanon may be a “new reality,” she added.

The result of the recent fire appears to illustrate that whereas Hezbollah was deterred from most attacks like this since 2006, the Palestinian factions in Lebanon that are now working with Hezbollah are not constrained.

“We see that the Iranians are keeping their promise regarding what happened on the Temple Mount on Sunday,” Zehavi told the Post, referring to recent clashes during Tisha Be’av and Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice).

It may be that in the coming months and years we will see more rocket fire from Lebanon ascribed to Palestinian groups. This gives Hezbollah and Iran plausible deniability because they can pretend it is just Palestinians “reacting.”

But the reality is that no one fires rockets from Lebanon without Hezbollah’s approval. In the wider context, this may mean approval or orders even came directly from Tehran.

  • The Jerusalem Post