After two Hezbollah members were killed in August in an Israeli attack on a terrorist cell in Syria, the group’s leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah vowed retaliation, though stressed that he had no interest in starting a war.
The promised response came on Sunday afternoon, when Hezbollah fighters fired several anti-tank missiles at IDF vehicles near the Israel-Lebanon border town of Avivim. After a medical transport vehicle was hit by one of the missiles, two injured Israeli soldiers were seen being taken by helicopter to Rambam Hospital in Haifa.
The entire affair was documented in real-time on social media, complete with pictures of the soldiers being loaded on the helicopter and their arrival at the hospital a short time later. Pointing to this evidence, Hezbollah hailed a victorious act of retaliation against Israel.
But confusion arose that very same evening when the Israeli army, after firing artillery at Hezbollah targets in response to the earlier attack, announced that there had been no casualties among its forces. Something didn’t add up.
Hezbollah had been duped by the Israeli army’s clever ploy. The two soldiers seen being loaded into a helicopter and flown to the hospital were acting. They were never really injured. In fact, they hadn’t been in the vehicle hit by Hezbollah. The IDF knew that if Hezbollah could viably tell its supporters that Israel had paid a price for the earlier reported attack in Beirut, then it would back down, not wanting to escalate the situation any further.
The gamble paid off. Following the purposefully-fake news about two wounded Israeli soldiers, there were no further attacks. The IDF’s deception had successfully prevented any real casualties, and the high alert in the north of the country was cancelled.
The northern border is for now quiet again, with both sides seemingly satisfied–Israel with having avoided any real loss of life, and Hezbollah with having saved face (the Israeli revelation that the entire affair had been a set-up would be seen in the Lebanese media as a lie).