But the mutual deterrence that has kept Hezbollah from engaging in a fresh war with Israel, potentially on behalf of Iran or Syria, appears increasingly tenuous.
Israeli officials have remained tight-lipped about the reports of military action, but analysts say it was likely motivated by both a sense of growing urgency and a calculation that neither Syria nor Hezbollah would retaliate.
“I have a distinct feeling that something happened in Syria that increased or heightened the threat perception in Jerusalem as well as in Washington,” says Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. “I think the Israeli view is probably that Hezbollah and Syria are weak, with little likelihood of response or escalation.”
Amid official Israeli silence, there is still uncertainty as to the actual target of last night’s airstrike. Numerous reports cite unidentified US and Israeli sources claiming that the attack targeted a convoy carrying weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The weapons were variously reported as SA-17 mobile medium-range antiaircraft missiles, Yakhont anti-ship missiles, or Scud short-range ballistic missiles. All three weapon systems are regarded as “game changers” in the Israeli context because of the threat they pose to Israeli aircraft, shipping, and populated areas respectively. In particular, the SA-17 missiles could limit the ability of Israeli jets to monitor Hezbollah and Syrian weapons sites.