Israeli Warplanes Crisscross Lebanese Skies as Deterrent

As Israeli eyes were riveted on the appalling effects of the synagogue bomb attacks in Istanbul on Saturday, November 15, their air force executed a stunning demonstration of might over Lebanon lasting several hours Sunday, November 16. debkafile‘s military sources reveal exclusively that 30-40 Israeli fighter-bombers zipped through the length and breadth of Lebanon – from the northern regions and Tripoli, across to the Lebanese-Syrian border, the Beqaa Valley and Syrian bases, through Djebel Druze in the center, to Beirut and down to the south. The aircraft made low passes in quartets, buzzing key points. There was no response from the ground.
The first planes thundered over Beirut at 11 a.m. just as Hassan Nasrallah was preparing to address a large Hizballah gathering to honor Bashar Assad’s third anniversary as Syrian president. Nasrallah had also promised a reply to Israel’s latest proposal for their prisoner exchange deal. However, upon hearing the planes roar in overhead, the Hizballah leader abruptly cancelled his appearance and dumped his speech in the hands of his deputy, Sheikh Naim Qassem.
debkafile‘s Middle East sources report the high points of that address:
1. The Hizballah was not frightened by the large-scale military exercise Israel staged last week along its borders with Syria and Lebanon.
2. The organization and Syria stand together in a single front.
3. If Israeli attacks Syria again, Hizballah undertakes to retaliate.
debkafile‘s military sources interpret this as meaning that Syria will not respond to an Israeli repeat-attack (of its October 5 air raid near Damascus) but leave the reprisal to the Hizballah. This could take the form, for instance, of Katyusha rocket barrages over northern Israel.
4. Hizballah forces have been placed on a high state of preparedness.
The Shiite terror organization’s commander in South Lebanon, Nabil Kawq, echoed these points to a gathering that took place at the same time in one of the villages of the south.
Sunday afternoon, amid the deafening sound of Israeli warplanes, a telephone call reached Lebanese President Emil Lahoud in Beirut summoning him to the Syrian president’s office in Damascus on Tuesday, November 18 for an urgent conference.
All these events took place in anticipation of a gathering storm.
Friday, November 21, is the last day of the Muslim Ramadan month of fast. It is also marked by the Hizballah and Iran as “Jerusalem Day” with mass military marches in Beirut and huge processions in Iranian cities shouting anti-American and anti-Israel slogans.
Israeli policy-makers and military leaders had received intelligence, according to our Jerusalem sources, that this year, the Hizballah is preparing trouble for Israel. It could take the form of intense border violence in the days leading up to Friday, possibly as a climax to the “Jerusalem Day” events on the day itself. The Syrian army and air force would hold itself ready to intervene if needed.
To deter not only Hizballah but also Syria, the Israeli chief of staff, Lt.-Gen Moshe Yaalon, took the opportunity Sunday to warn the Assad regime that if it failed to take heed of Israel’s first air raid against a terrorist target near Damascus on October 5, the lesson might have to be repeated.
Another scenario in the works may be a mega-strike inside Israel attempted by Hizballah or one of its allies – including even the sleeper cells al Qaeda has planted in Palestinian territories.
Nasrallah may stage an upsurge of violence and then try and exploit it to extort a better deal on the prisoner swap or, as he puts it, force Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon “to accept capitulation terms.”
There is also a theory that Nasrallah is all bluster and no real punch.
The suicide bombings of synagogues in Istanbul is thought to be unrelated to the buildup of menace in Lebanon and Syria. debkafile‘s counter-terror experts report that Turkish and Israeli investigators quickly detected indications of a highly competent hand that not only prepared the intelligence for the dual assault but also the mechanism for covering up the trail leading to its perpetrators.
There is a strong sense that the week ahead is fraught with danger because of coming events. This feeling is shared by the Americans and the British as well as other governments in the Middle East.
US president George W. Bush will be on a state visit to London from November 18 to 21. In Baghdad, the US administrator Paul Bremer is trying to build up momentum to advance the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis while leaving security and the coalition army outside their control.
Sunday, as the last week of Ramadan began, Saddam Hussein’s purported voice returned to urge Iraqis to fight the Americans in a holy war.
Jerusalem Day on Friday is a fighting slogan for Iran’s Shiites and their terrorist arm in Lebanon, the Hizballah.
Israel sent its air force over Lebanon Sunday to warn all its enemies that it is ready for whatever they may have in store.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email