Nasrallah’s Kidnap Plan Boomerangs
This was the first time the Hizballah had sent a specially-trained motorbike commando unit into action. Its mission was to kidnap Israeli soldiers and bring them to Beirut for a macabre display in Lebanon’s Independence Day ceremonies Tuesday, Nov. 22. This was to be an act of defiance against Israel and more particularly the anti-Syrian government. debkafile‘s sources do not confirm it was instigated by Damascus and Tehran, as Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz claimed. Nasrallah may have informed both governments, but his essential motive was to grind his own axe in Lebanon.
Indeed he cast himself as the star of Lebanon’s national day ceremonies. The plan was to draw the world media to a spectacular display of the captured Israeli troops, or their bodies, and publicly invite Israel to negotiate their exchange against the release of Lebanese and Palestinians in Israeli jails.
But most of all, the Hizballah leader sought to show up the Beirut government and prime minister Fouad Siniora as impotents. The Lebanese prime minister would not dare send troops against him to free the Israelis – even though their abduction was a brazen contravention of international law. He and his government would then be dismissed by the Lebanese people and the Arab world as nonentities.
Nasrallah saw himself profiting from the kidnap stunt in five ways:
1. The anti-Syrian Siniora government would fall.
2. This would undo the considerable efforts America and France invested since the February 2005 Hariri murder to establish a stable government independent of Damascus.
3. With the government out of the way, no one would be left in Lebanon to squeeze the Hizballah to disarm.
4. After this triumph, the Shiite terrorist group would recover its rightful place at the center of Lebanon’s power constellation.
Nasrallah needed to silence demands for his organization to give up its weapons coming from Lebanese leaders like the Druze chief Walid Jumblat. Last week, Jumblatt declared, “The people not weapons will protect resistance (to Israel) forces.”
5. The Beirut government’s downfall would derail the UN inquiry into the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, whose progress depends heavily on government collaboration. Syrian president Bashar Assad would not doubt be grateful for this important service.
debkafile‘s military and intelligence sources reveal that, in readiness for the kidnap operation, the Hizballah three weeks ago withdrew from the Beqaa Valley of eastern Lebanon its crack commando unit of 300 to 400 men and deployed them in the south. A supply of Katyusha rockets, anti-tank missiles and heavy mortars was also transferred to the region, after withdrawals were made from Hizballah’s Beqaa weapons stores for the first time in five years.
These movements were picked up on the Israeli side and prompted the high state of military preparedness declared intermittently in recent weeks on the Israel-Lebanese border and the repeated warnings Jerusalem conveyed to Beirut.
Neither appreciated how determined Nasrallah was to pull off his ambitious project.
In fact, the offensive launched Monday, Nov. 21 at just before 15:00 hours local time, was the biggest and fiercest the Hizballah has ever carried out against Israel. According to our military sources, 500 shells and rockets were fired in five hours, at the rate of 100 per hour against military and civilian targets. Twelve Israelis were injured, two seriously.
Israeli warplanes and artillery returned fire and air force helicopters chased Hizballah firing crews in southern Lebanon, killing at least 12.
Nasrallah’s motorcyclist team was able to conquer both sides of Kfar Ajar, but failed in its mission to kidnap Israeli soldiers, live or dead. It ran into an ambush trap laid by an Israeli paratroop unit, which hid in a house on the Israeli side of the village. A second team was repulsed by the Israel Gladiola position on Mt. Dov. Hizballah lost another four or five men in the two raids.
Nasrallah’s plan therefore boomeranged against him. Instead of snatching Israelis, Beirut is asking Israel to hand over the bodies of the Hizballah casualties.
This does not mean he won’t try again. Indeed the Hizballah chief is far from giving up and is likely to do whatever it takes to bring his plan to fruition. Israeli troops in the north therefore remain on a high state of preparedness.