Jerusalem conveyed tough back-channel warnings to Beirut on Monday, Aug. 26, that any attacks on the Golan or Galilee would bring forth a powerful Israeli counter punch. It was delivered to Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah and Lebanon’s military commander Maj. Gen. Joseph Aoun, DEBKAfile’s exclusive military and intelligence sources disclose, by UNIFIL commander Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col.
This step was taken on in an effort to prevent the cycle of tension surrounding Israel’s preemptive weekend operations in Lebanon and Syria from veering out of control. On Monday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Monday described Israeli attacks on Beirut’s southern suburb of Dahya and the eastern border region as a “declaration of war.” He said: “We are entitled to resort to our right to defend our sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”
In a series of back-door diplomatic responses on Monday, Israel informed Nasrallah that so long as Hizballah waged war on Israel from Syrian soil, his followers would share the same fate as the IDF has meted out in hundreds of operations to Iranian and other proxy forces.
The message to the Lebanese commander pointed out that in another round of hostilities, Israel would have no option but to wipe out Hizballah’s vast rocket arsenal, inevitably causing “massive damage to Lebanon.”
Israel’s warnings to Lebanon were accompanied by corresponding Trump administration diplomacy in Beirut. US Ambassador to Beirut, Elizabeth Richard, in an urgent face-to-face meeting with President Aoun called after he accused Israel of a declaration of war issued a warning. She cautioned him that if he persisted in his support of Hizballah and its leader, Washington would conduct “a reassessment” of its annual military aid program for the Lebanese army.
Syrian President Bashar Assad, for his part, has kept on insisting that he knew nothing about the Akraba base set up by Al Qods and Hizballah south of Damascus for holding armed Iranian drones ready to attack Israel. They were primed for launching when they were destroyed by the Israeli air force on Saturday night.
Assad accordingly issued a new directive banning the launching of missiles against Israel from Syrian territory. DEBKAfile’s sources note, however, that, typical of the Syria leader, this ban did not mention other anti-Israel operations such as intrusions by ground forces or UAV attacks.
The flurry of secret diplomacy took place amid high military tension in northern Israel, where IDF forces, on a state of readiness on the Syrian and Lebanese borders since Saturday, were boosted by a large influx of armored and artillery units. The Lebanese news agency reported early Tuesday that the contested Shaaba Farms pocket was brilliantly illuminated overnight by IDF contingents and explosions were heard from this lofty enclave that sits on the junction of the Israeli, Syrian and Lebanese borders.