ANALYSIS: Russia Makes Israeli Airstrikes in Syria Virtually Impossible

Northern border region gets far more tense after Russia denies Israel ability to bomb Hezbollah operations in Syria

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Things heated up on the Israel Lebanon border on Tuesday when soldiers of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) prevented IDF soldiers from erecting a barbed wire fence on the Israeli side of the so-called Blue Line, the UN recognized international border between Israel and Lebanon.

It took an intervention of a UNIFIL unit to prevent things from spinning out of control.

The LAF falsely claimed that IDF soldiers had entered Lebanese territory on four places and said the Israeli action constituted a “violation of Lebanese sovereignty” while it warned Lebanese civilians to get out of the area.

The Lebanese military later announced it was ready for “all possibilities”.

UNIFIL, meanwhile, confirmed at least two of the four discovered attack tunnels which Hezbollah dug in the years after the Second Lebanon War crossed into Israel and that this constituted a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

Israel Today asked local IDF commanders for entrance to the sites where the Israeli army is conducting drilling for the destruction of the Hezbollah tunnels but the request was denied. Only CNN was permitted to enter one of the sites and to make video images of one of the tunnels.

Israel is currently trying to convince the US Administration of President Donald Trump to withhold financial aid to Lebanon as long as the Lebanese government doesn’t start with discovering and destroying the entrances of the tunnels on Lebanese soil.

UNIFIL reportedly refuses to get involved with the closure of the attack tunnels fearing reprisals by Hezbollah and tensions with the local Arab population, according to the Lebanese paper al-Akhbar which is affiliated with Hezbollah.

Israel is also using ‘Operation Northern Shield’ to launch a public relations campaign which aims to generate international pressure on the Lebanese government which Jerusalem expects to act against the Iranian attempt to provide Hezbollah with more guided missiles.

Iran and Hezbollah have built underground facilities in Lebanon to produce these missiles or to convert crude rockets into GPS guided projectiles, according to the Israeli government.

Israeli experts have warned that the Iranian attempt to provide Hezbollah with guided missiles will eventually lead to war if the international community doesn’t take action.

The UN Security Council will discuss the tunnel issue on Wednesday and Israel – which is not a member of the Council – is pushing the United States to put the Iranian missile facilities in Lebanon on the agenda as well.

On Tuesday the IDF released new video footage of a recently discovered tunnel which revealed that Hezbollah is trying to seal off the tunnels since the IDF discovered them.

The Israeli military is now filling the discovered tunnels with explosives in preparation of their destruction.

“From the moment the terrorist tunnels are exposed, IDF soldiers are working on learning about them through various means, including photography and research capabilities,” the IDF’s spokesmen unit said in a statement.

The IDF is expecting to expose dozens of additional terror tunnels and thinks Operation Northern Shield will continue for weeks if not months.

The Israeli air force (IAF), meanwhile, continues to conduct reconnaissance flights in southern Lebanon according to Lebanese media.

An IAF jet was spotted in the skies above the south Lebanese city of Sidon on Tuesday while breaking through the sound barrier.

This reporter also witnessed how the IDF is moving artillery from the Syrian border to the front with Lebanon.

This was another indication that Israel now considers the Lebanese front more hostile than the one with Syria and could act against the Iranian military build-up in Lebanon when the international community fails to contain the threat Iran and Hezbollah pose to the country.

The IAF has significantly reduced its activities against Iran in Syria since a crisis with Russia erupted over the downing of a Russian IL-20 reconnaissance plane in September.

Since the Russians delivered the S-300 anti-aircraft missile shield to the Syrian army the Israeli military has refrained from carrying out airstrikes against Iran-related targets in Syria and instead used missiles to destroy weapon convoys bound for Hezbollah and targets related to the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

The sharp reduction in Israeli military activity in Syria is also related to a change in the rules of engagement by both Russia and the Iranian-backed pro-Assad coalition.

Damascus has warned Israel that any attack in Syria will now be answered by a attack on a target in Israel while the Russians have warned the Israeli government that it has stationed Russian military personnel on bases and facilities belonging to the Quds Force of the IRGC.

Veteran war correspondent Elijah J. Magnier reported this week that “Russia has informed Israel that there are Russian officers present at every Syrian or Iranian military base and that any strike against Syrian or Iranian objectives would hit Russian forces as well. Putin will not allow his soldiers and officers to be struck down by Israel’s direct or indirect bombing”.

His report was later followed by an article by the Russian outlet Kommersant which said that Moscow is allowing Hezbollah units and Shiite militias in Syria to use Russian flags as protection against Israeli air strikes.


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