The mystery of how Hizballah managed to plant the bomb, which blew up against an IDF patrol, without causing casualties, Tuesday, Jan. 5, in the Shebaa Farms district of Mt Hermon – on the Israeli side of the ceasefire line – is perplexing Israel’s military chiefs. It brought Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan (former OC Northern Command) and his successor Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi to the Golan the next day for a close inspection of the Syrian and Lebanese border defenses.
They found no fault with the meticulous preparations and counter-measures the contingents on the spot had made for an attack, which Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah had said was “inevitable” after the assassination of Samir Quntar in Damascus on Dec. 20.
But, in addition, to the lookout posts scattered along the border, was a countermeasure that had been rated impermeable: an “electronic sterile area” abutting the electronic border fence, which has been strewn with hi-tech sensors and other devices designed to act as tripwires for the smallest intrusion.
The fact that Hizballah was able to plant a bomb on the Israeli side of the border proved that this elaborate system did not work.
The Shiite terrorist group, Iran’s Lebanese proxy, has long been known to maintain a commando unit known as the "Redwan Force,” especially trained for eventual incursions into Israel on missions of assault and the capture of Israeli locales with hostages.
But its ability to outsmart an electronically sterile barrier was quite another matter. It is of the utmost urgency for IDF tacticians to seriously rethink the defensive measures in place on the northern borders with Syria and Lebanon, before Hizballah strikes again.
But first of all, they must find out how it happened. Some Lebanese sources are throwing out hints of a secret tunnel dug by Hizballah, through which the “Quntar Brigade” was able to sneak the bomb onto the IDF patrol route, although it failed to cause casualties. No trace of a tunnel has so far been reported.
At the time of the incident, Israeli public and media attention was wholly taken up with the Dizengoff gunman, who murdered three Israelis on Jan. 1 and is still at large six days later.
Since Hizballah’s Shebaa Farms attack was swiftly countered by massive IDF artillery fire, it was soon over and the episode relegated to back pages. However, the defense minister and IDF chiefs cannot afford to treat it lightly. They are convinced that Hizballah has not concluded its campaign of “revenge” and may reuse the same method for further attacks. No stone is therefore being left unturned to discover how Hizballah smuggled a bomb onto Israeli terrain – over or under the border – and the preparations for an attack remain high.
At the end of his Golan inspection visit, the defense minister said: “The IDF is alert and fully prepared for every eventuality, just as it was for the Mt Dov (part of Mt. Hemon) attack. The forces are ready to respond whenever and however necessary and, if need be, their response will be powerful indeed.”