Iran Gives the Noose around Israel another Twist by Boosting Three Warfronts
This was not the Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah’s regular threatening rant against Israel. The speech he made on Monday Dec. 11 to thousands of supporters shouting “Death to America!”, “Death to Israel!” was fundamentally different. This time, it was a credible call to arms. Nasrallah’s declaration that his group and allies in the region would now renew their focus on the Palestinian cause, after what he called “their victories elsewhere in the region” – and his statement of “a united strategy in the field” to confront Israel – represented a working statement of intent from Tehran. This intent was already in motion at the highest level with the following steps:
- On the day of Nasrallah’s speech, the Iranian-Hamas partnership-in-terror came out of the shadows for the first time with a phone call from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to the Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh in the Gaza Strip. No attempt was made to conceal their working association. A second call then went through from Revolutionary Guards Al Qods leader, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, from his war room in eastern Syria near Abu Kamal, to Marwan Issa, commander of the Hamas military arm, Ezz e-Din al-Qassam, in the Gaza Strip. This call was more down-to-earth. Soleimani offered the extremist Sunni Hamas group Iran’s “complete support” in its armed campaign to defeat US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Like the Iranian president, Soleimani has never before made direct contact with a Hamas military chief in Gaza – only in the past through covert rendezvous in Beirut or Tehran.
Since then, the Palestinians have been firing rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel at a leisurely pace, with Israeli warplanes hitting back against Hamas’ military installations. This familiar tit-for-tat routine was pretty much low key until now, but if the rockets continue to fly into Israel, the tension is bound to escalate. Meanwhile, the slow pace of rocket attacks is evolving into a fresh war of attrition orchestrated from Tehran against southern Israel
It coincides with Hamas’ loss of one of its most deadly tools of terror. Israeli military tech wizards have developed a unique state-of-the art package for detecting and destroying its underground tunnels, pipelines for infiltrating terrorists under the border for surprise attacks on Israeli civilian locations. The Israeli Defense Forces have released information on two tunnels that were blown up after snaking under the border and opening up in an open field. DEBKA Weekly’s military sources confirm that the true figure is much larger. These tunnels were dug, equipped and operated by Hamas and Iran’s Palestinian proxy, Islamic Jihad.
As a deterrent, they have been packing the tunnels tight with dozens of operatives for weeks on end, in the hope that the Israeli military will hold back from blowing them up for fear of an international outcry over the high death toll. The first tunnel was destroyed nonetheless and up to 19 Jihadists and Hamas activists lost their lives. Before striking the second tunnel, the IDF waited for it to be empty.
But the two terrorists groups are aware that they are living on a knife’s edge. Hence the rocket fire, even though the projectiles aimed at populated areas are intercepted by the IDF’s Iron Dome defense system in time to prevent harm to Israeli civilians or serious damage.
And so the Palestinian terrorist groups, having run out of their two primary instruments of “resistance” against Israel, are turning to Tehran as a last resort, asking to be absorbed in Iran’s external military set-up across the Middle East. Soleimani and Nasrallah grabbed at the opportunity and promised full cooperation.
That deal supplemented parallel Iranian steps already going forward:
- In the third week of November, Gen. Soleimani set up a new military headquarters in Damascus for the use of two Iraqi Shiite militias now operating in Syria under his command: They are the Asaib Ahl al-Haq (the League of Believers) aka the Khazali Network, and the Kata’ib Hezbollah, which is the backbone of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU) federation of Iraqi Shiite militias serving Tehran under the command of Soleimani’s deputy, Abu Mahid al-Muhandis.
This headquarters was set up to coordinate an anti-Israel campaign to be launched by the foreign armed Shiite groups which Iran originally imported to Syria to fight for Bashar Assad, including the Afghan and Pakistani militias.
2, On Saturday, Dec. 2, Qais al-Khazali, commander of the Iraqi Assaib Ahl al-Haq militia, arrived in Lebanon from Iraq for a study tour at close quarters under Hizballah guidance of Israel’s military positions on its northern border with Lebanon. This information enabled the Iraqi militia chief to chart the layout of the positions his militia was to take up for the coming confrontation with Israel.
The tour began at the Hizballah position facing Israel’s Admit, continued to Houla, west of which Hizballah has planted a position opposite Israel’s Manara ridge and the IDF post located there. His next stop was Kafr Kela, just one and a half kilometers from the northernmost Israeli town of Metula. From a nearby Hizballah position, he was able to view the IDF’s military setup on the Golan and the Hermon slopes. The voice of a Hizballah officer could be heard on a video clip on the mlitia chief’s tour that was released in Iraq. He was heard saying: “This is Golan. It is nearly 10 kilometers from here.” Khazali then proceeded on foot with his escorts to the Fatima Gate on the Lebanese-Israeli border outside Metula.
The militia chief next briefed Nasrallah in Beirut on Gen. Soleimani’s orders. He reported that 15,000 of his militiamen would soon be arriving in Lebanon and spread out along the Israeli border. DEBKA Weekly’s military sources predict that an intake of armed Iraqi Shiites to Syria and Lebanon on this scale will not go by without Israel punching back to prevent them from settling in on its northern border.