Who is Trying to Raise the Tension on the Israeli-Lebanese Border?

At 16:15 on May 19th, 2021, 4 rockets were fired from Lebanon towards the Haifa Bay in Israel. The rockets, apparently of the “Grad” type, have a 122-millimeter circumference and a range of about 40 km (25 miles). According to reports from Lebanon, the rockets were fired from an area located between the towns Kana-Seddiqine-Jabal Al Botum-Zabikin-Shiitiya in south Lebanon (southeast of the city of Tyre).

Three rockets fell in an open area, at least one of them hit near the Arab city Shefa-‘Amr in northern Israel, one rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome. Sirens were sounded in several Jewish and Arab communities – Shefa-Amr, Acre, Kiryat Bialik, Kiryat Motzkin, and others. The IDF stated that it had retaliated with artillery fire on the area from which the rockets were launched.

It is known that Hezbollah is not the only organization that has its hands on this type of rocket but is rather also in the hands of Palestinian organizations operating in Lebanon. If Hezbollah didn’t launch the rockets it is the first time that a Palestinian group launches rockets to this range of 44 km (27/5).

The city of Tyre (that is close to the area from which the rockets were fired) is known for being home to a Palestinian population, especially the Rashidieh refugee camp, in which thousands of Palestinian residents reside. This camp is considered Hamas’s stronghold operating under Hezbollah’s patronage. Hamas established there an independent military infrastructure, with weapons development and manufacturing capabilities, among others.

The Lebanese army reported that it had located a launch site with a rocket that was not fired in the Seddiqine area. UNIFIL Head of Mission Stefano Del Col “urged all sides to exercise maximum restraint at this critical time”.

According to Al-Manar reporter this is one of the rocket launchers.

There are two possibilities as to the perpetrators’ identity: the first is Palestinians identifying with Hamas. The second is Hezbollah. It should be noted that PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization), which operates in Lebanon, denied all involvement with the incident. 

We assess that the rockets were not fired directly by Hezbollah, however, at this time it is unclear whether Hezbollah knew about the rockets and the intent to fire them, and if it authorized it, as happened few times in the past. 

In our opinion, the goal of the firing on northern Israel today, at the current timing in face of American pressure for a ceasefire in Gaza – is to strengthen Hamas’ narrative of victory, both in Israeli and Arab public opinion (Palestinian, Arab society in Israel and Arab countries).

But when taking into account all the events on the northern border in recent days, we estimate that there is an Iranian interest to use all its players on the field (demonstrations, UAV attack, Syrian proxy, and Palestinian organizations in Lebanon) to create tension on the northern border as well. aiming to weaken Israel both operatively and morally. Possibly even without considering the internal needs of Hezbollah, which is not interested in a full-scale war with Israel at the moment.

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Picture of Sarit Zehavi & Tal Beeri

Sarit Zehavi & Tal Beeri

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