Michael Totten

Border Clashes Continue

More fighting erupted on the Lebanese-Israeli border this week. This after I recently recommended to resident writer Lee Smith that he visit South Lebanon because, unlike Beirut, it is relaxing, rural, and quiet. I won’t say that anymore.
An Israeli paraglider crossed the border, whether intentionally or on accident, and landed in Lebanon. Hezbollah fighters fired at him. Israeli soldiers cut a hole in the border fence and pulled the man through to safety, also under fire by Hezbollah. The Israelis, naturally enough, fired back at Hezbollah positions. The paraglider was immediately arrested by the Israelis.
Hezbollah claims he was a soldier. Israel claims he was a civilian.
This incident may have happened regardless of the general political situation in the Middle East. Hezbollah fighters will shoot anyone they see crossing the border for any reason.
One of my American friends in Beirut lived in the West Bank for a while. He foolishly tried to cross the border from Israel into Lebanon. He had been to Lebanon before and knew a place where a gate in the fence is often left open — presumably for cross-border smuggling. He thought it would be safe to drive a rental car through that gate.
It was one of the craziest things he could have done. Hezbollah guerillas opened fire on him. They put several bullet holes in the hood of his car. He slammed the car into reverse, ducked his head beneath the dash, and drove blindly backwards at top speed through the gate. Hezbollah stopped firing as soon as he was back on the Israeli side. But he crashed the car just inside Israel because he could not see where he was going.
These clashes were spurred by breaches of the border from the Israeli side. Earlier this week, though, Hezbollah crossed into Israel and set off a long string of battles along the border.
I think it’s obvious what’s going on here.
The international community is gearing up to punish the Syrian regime for assassinating Rafik Hariri and exploding terrorist bombs in Beirut. Setting the southern border with Israel on fire could have been a terrific distraction from all that. Syria doesn’t exactly control Hezbollah. But Syria does help fund and arm Hezbollah, as does Iran. Syria naturally wants the heat and the spotlight somewhere else, and it makes sense that Hezbollah should be willing to go along. Hezbollah needs a strong Syria.
Syria — and Hezbollah — will be dealt with regardless. The U.N. Security Council, hardly a hotbed of sympathy for the “Zionist Entity,” explicitly blames Hezbollah for starting it.
Israeli planes dropped leaflets along the southern border and over Beirut.

Hizbullah brings a strong prejudice to Lebanon. It is an instrument in the hands of its Syrian and Iranian masters. The state of Israel is watching over the protection of its citizens and sovereignty…Who is protecting Lebanon, who lies to you? Who throws your sons into a battle for which they are not prepared? Who wants the return of destruction?

I did not see a single leaflet in my neighborhood. I assume they dropped them over the Shia neighborhoods in the southern suburbs rather than in the Christian and Sunni areas in the north. That, or they didn’t drop very many.
None of this seems to have affected public opinion in Beirut one way or another. Border clashes with Israel are ho-hum at this point. Almost every Lebanese person I know still thinks of the Syrian regime as their most immediate problem.