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July 13, 2006
Haifa Hit As Hezbollah Wants Iranian Escalation

The Israeli-Lebanon conflict appears to have escalated greatly in the last few hours. Rockets hit Haifa from Lebanon earlier for the first time, and Hezbollah now wants to involve Iran in the war they initiated:

Two rockets have struck the Israeli city of Haifa, hours after a threat by the militant Lebanese group Hezbollah.

Hezbollah denied firing any rockets at the northern port city. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

Haifa, Israel's third largest city, is more than 30km (18 miles) from the Lebanese border and was thought to be out of Hezbollah's range.

This represents a major escalation by Hezbollah, although one completely expected after the Israeli bombing of Beirut's airport, Lebanese air force bases, and Hezbollah's Al-Manar television station. However, Hezbollah has done something rather unexpected in attempting to move the captured Israeli soldiers to Iran:

Israel has information that Hizbullah guerrillas who captured two Israeli soldiers are trying to transfer them to Iran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.

Regev did not disclose the source of his information.

The IDF released the names of the two soldiers on Thursday. According to the IDF Spokesperson, the two reserve are Ehud Goldwasser, 31, from Nahariya, and Eldad Regev, 26, from Kiryat Motzkin.

Of course, this would explain the efforts against Lebanese military and civilian airfields. The Israelis want to ensure that Goldwasser and Regev do not wind up in Teheran. If they do, however, Iran would have two choices: turn the soldiers over to the International Red Cross/Red Crescent immediately, or assume the role of combatant in the conflict. Unless Iran turned over the soldiers to a neutral party, they will have committed an act of war. Unlike the Carter administration in 1979, the Israelis would not likely allow 444 days to pass before getting them back or responding in kind.

One has to wonder about the timing of these terrorist attacks on Israel. Either Syria or Iran, or both, have decided to start provoking Israel into some kind of response. Perhaps all they wanted was to force Israel to release Palestinian prisoners, and recalled that kidnappings have successfully done so with past Israeli administrations. In that case, they made a major miscalculation, and they may have a war for which they are unprepared. That would tend to indicate Bashar Assad's incompetent handiwork.

On the other hand, perhap the entire idea was to start a regional war. The flashpoints being in Gaza and Israel's northern border, the conspiracy would have intended to paint this as Israeli aggression -- and given Europe's normal response to fighting in the region, that would have been a pretty good prediction. What purpose would a regional war serve? It might play into the hands of a regime needing an excuse to test out a missile program on Tel Aviv, and perhaps a new warhead, too -- and that would point to Ahmadinejad and the mad mullahcracy.

This could get ugly fast -- and if it plays out like every other war against Israel in the last sixty years, it could clean up a lot of dictatorships.

UPDATE: In another thread, CQ reader Skip points out one pertinent fact about the attack on the airports: they not only keep Hezbollah from sending the POWs out of Lebanon, but also keeps them from bringing in more rockets to replace those they're firing at Israel. If the Israelis keep their sights on the runways and not on the planes or terminals, then that makes sense.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 13, 2006 2:09 PM

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» Hizbullah wants soldiers moved to Iran from Stop The ACLU
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