On July 20, an airstrike took place in the Damascus area in the south and southwestern region of the capital. The attack, which according to Syrian media outlets, was carried out by Israel. The attack was reportedly aimed at warehouses, sites, and weapons depots linked to the Shiite axis in Syria.
As a result of the attack, which also included locations in the area of the Damascus military airport, a Lebanese (apparently junior) Hezbollah operative named Ali Kamal Muhsem Jawad from the village of Aaitit in South Lebanon was killed. In the same attack, a number of Shiite militia operatives and Syrian soldiers were also reportedly injured.
Will Hezbollah respond?
In our estimation, Hezbollah will respond to the death of the operative in accordance with the equation set by Nasrallah. The equation states that Hezbollah will respond at a time and place it sees fit to any harm to its operatives, no matter where they were harmed. Hezbollah can respond from both Lebanon and Syria. According to Walid Sakaria, a Lebanese member of Hezbollah’s parliament, given the economic situation and increasing calls to disarm Hezbollah, it will not be appropriate to respond to the attack from Lebanon, especially in light of the fact that the operative was killed in Syria.
It should be noted that Hezbollah has two operative units in southern Syria that are widely deployed near the border with Israel: the first is the “Southern Command” and the second is the “Golan Portfolio”, whose job is to gather intelligence on Israel and carry out military operations against it if necessary.
Will Hezbollah’s response be limited?
The response will most likely be limited because it is probable that at this time (the internal crisis in Lebanon), Hezbollah is not interested in a wide-scale confrontation with Israel(although this option is always on the table). In our estimation, Hezbollah knows that Lebanon and its citizens will not be able to withstand the consequences of a comprehensive war against Israel. Hezbollah, whose power is based on the sympathy and support of the Shiite population in Lebanon, will not at this stage want to sacrifice the Shiite population in Lebanon in general and the population in southern Lebanon in particular (the vast majority of whom are Shiites) with a war with Israel.
Notwithstanding the aforementioned, two additional points must be noted:
First, Hezbollah is known for its radical actions that are meant to change the rules of the game and try to improve its conditions (as in the case of the war against Israel in 2006).
Second, it is difficult to know what is the current Iranian interest in light of the current internal problems in Iranian, as well as its situation in the regional arena. All this, while it appears that Iran is facing a “quite attack” led by an unknown factor (Israel? the United States? Other?) on its nuclear, electricity, and missile infrastructure, which is causing massive damages.
A comprehensive confrontation with Hezbollah could develop and deteriorate rapidly as a result of Hezbollah’s limited response even though both sides (Hezbollah and Israel) are not interested in such a scenario. In addition, a comprehensive confrontation could develop as a result of the Iranian interest, who might decide that it is time to start a comprehensive confrontation against Israel in order to improve its own position.
The situation and morale among Hezbollah supporters do not leave much choice and clearly expresses the desire for a clear response against Israel. On the other hand, it is worth noting that the commander of the US Central Command, General Mackenzie, who recently visited Lebanon, described Hezbollah as a “problem” and warned Hezbollah against military action “that will not end well for Lebanon, the organization and its supporters …”
In conclusion, our assessment is that Hezbollah will respond in a limited way to the death of the operative as a result of the airstrike in Syria. However, in our opinion, there is a possibility that even if the intention is to respond in a limited way, this can lead to a deterioration and a possible comprehensive overall confrontation.