In an eerie reminder of last summer's Second Lebanon War katyusha rockets landed on a factory and on a car in Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel today. Most recent reports indicate three rockets were fired and a fourth, later found by the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), failed to fire. A factory was lightly damaged and a car was more seriously damaged but thankfully nobody was hurt.
Unlike last summer when Hizbullah seemed to be proud of starting a war and firing over 4,000 rockets into Israel, today they were quick to deny any involvement. It could be that they are telling the truth. Both Israelis and Lebanese seem to be ready to blame some Palestinian terrorist group or another, either with ties to Hamas or al-Qaeda. On the other hand it could just be that Hizbullah isn't quite ready for another war just yet. One thing is clear: southern Lebanon, from which Israel withdrew unilaterally, is once again being used as a base for attacks on Israel and both UNIFIL (the U.N. peacekeeping force) and the LAF are either unwilling or unable to stop it.
Speaking of UNIFIL, they they called the attack a 'serious breach' of the cease-fire which ended last summer's war. I'm certain the usual prompt, decisive U.N. action will follow. You know, a little hand wringing and a few mealy mouthed words designed not to offend. Heck, there may even be an emergency Security Council meeting to find some way to blame Israel for being attacked.
UNIFIL also asked for all parties to show restraint. They were perfectly safe in doing this because an unnamed spokesman for Prime Minister Olmert had already promised Israeli restraint. The terrorists from some unnamed Palestinian group can't be expected to be restrained, can they? Since we don't know who they are they also can't be held to account either for today's attacks or any future lack of restraint, at least for now. As usual the only party that can be held accountable by the U.N. is Israel and I am sure that was calculated into their choice of words for the statement.
Despite my obvious cynicism I actually do think restraint is the right move, at least for the moment. Israel is correctly giving the LAF and UNIFIL a chance to act. The Winograd Commission interim report blamed Prime Minister Olmert and outgoing Defense Minister Peretz for rushing into Lebanon last summer without a plan. We all know how well that went. At least the Prime Minister isn't repeating his mistakes. The best thing to do for now is to watch, wait, see if the Lebanese government finds the will and ability to act, and allow Defense Minister Barak a chance to develop a plan of action in case there are further attacks. At least this time Prime Minister Olmert has a seasoned military man running the Defense Ministry.
I fear Israel is soon going to be forced fight another war against Iran, Syria, and/or their proxies in Lebanon and the territories. Israel needs to be ready for this eventuality but it doesn't need to precipitate full scale hostilities... at least not yet.