Israel “Didn’t Know” It Was Hitting an Iranian General and a Famous Hezbollah Man — in Pinpoint Strike in Syria? That’s One Claim
An unnamed Israeli source told the Reuters news agency that Israel did not intend to kill high-level Iranians or Lebanese Hezbollah, when an Israeli airstrike destroyed a convoy on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.
But that doesn’t ring true. Keep in mind that disinformation is a major part of the shadow wars — the spy-versus-spy, bomber-versus-bomber, assassin-versus-assassin battles that have gone on for years.
Iran’s official media have confirmed — with the man’s picture — that a general in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was killed in the Israeli airstrike in Syria.
The IRGC’s role isn’t even being hidden anymore. Lebanese reports said in addition to the general, several Iranian IRGC soldiers were killed by the Israeli airstrike.
Also killed were half a dozen Hezbollah fighters — including the 25-year-old son of Imad Mughniyeh, the notorious military chief of the Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist movement who was blown up by an Israeli Mossad car bomb in Syria’s capital in 2008.
Why would Israel’s military now hint — through a leak — that killing those senior men was just a coincidence?
First, Israel’s intelligence agencies don’t want their enemies to know precisely how much Israel knows. Do the Israelis listen in to practically all cellphone conversations and intercept text messages?
Does it make sense that Israel — using a rocket-firing helicopter, according to the first leak, but now U.N. observers say they saw Israeli drone aircraft cross into Syrian airspace before the strike — would strike two jeeps, just because they were within a few miles of the Golan Heights armistice line?
We think it is more likely that Israel struck the convoy, because of information that senior Hezbollah men were in it.
The presence of the Iranians may not have been known, but it was always a real possibility.
The leak to Reuters is probably aimed at making a tense situation a lot less volatile — to soothe some of the anger. The suggestion is made of an intelligence mistake by the Israelis, hinting that they did not intend to kill a senior Iranian — and therefore Iran shouldn’t overreact.
A former Israeli military intelligence chief, retired General Amos Yadlin (who this week became the official pick for Defense Minister by the Labor Party-led coalition called “The Zionist List”), was asked if he would order the airstrike in the knowledge there was an Iranian general in the vehicles.
“We don’t check the identity cards or passports of people who are engaged in terrorism attacks on Israel,” Yadlin replied.
But a smart espionage community like Israel’s does, in fact, try to be entirely aware of whom it is striking — and what the consequences could be.
A lingering question is whether the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, may have ordered the airstrike in the belief that it would boost his reelection campaign. Israelis will be voting in mid-March.
The Israeli government strongly denies that; and there is the reality that the blowback — retaliation by Hezbollah, Iran, or both — could be so disruptive and damaging that Israeli voters will not be happy about the airstrike.
Yadlin predicts that Hezbollah (probably with Iranian assistance) will hit back at Israeli facilities or citizens — but “far away from Israel and Lebanon.”
Indeed there are many indications that Hezbollah and Iran don’t want a hot shooting war with Israel at this time.
Still — just in case — the Israeli military is reinforcing the Northern front: along the frontier with Lebanon and on the Golan Heights. The Israelis permitted publication of the fact that an Iron Dome anti-missile system was moved to the North to protect Israelis. Hezbollah could, after all, rain down with tens of thousands of missiles.
(first published here at IsraelSpy.com on Jan. 20, 2015)