Despite denials yesterday by the Israeli Chief of Staff, General Gabi Ashkenazi, that all is well on the northern front where Israel’s border meets Lebanon, Israeli tanks and troops are piling up at the border and Israeli Air Force jets are flying more frequent sorties in to Lebanese airspace.
It seems some Israeli armour has moved forward to within a hundred metres of the border in a deliberate attempt to provoke a reaction. What is significant in this move is that it was carried out knowing that this time it would not just be Hezbollah that the Israelis would be facing, but regular Lebanese forces who, according to a Lebanese Army spokesperson, ‘are ready to confront any Israeli assaults on Lebanon’ and have moved up tanks to the area to meet the Israeli threat.
This latest move, coupled with the increasingly bellicose propaganda campaign Israel is waging over Iran’s so-called nuclear weapons program, could easily escalate into the war the Israelis have been trying desperately to provoke ever since their last unsuccessful attempt to provoke a confrontation with Iran when it attacked and then invaded Lebanon in 2006.
In any future war with Lebanon, Israel has stated that it will regard the Lebanese government and the Lebanese armed forces as much an enemy as Hezbollah who, according to a ‘Jerusalem Post’ report, are now actually training Lebanese army officers. This means that any full scale attack by Israel against Lebanon will include massive air attacks against Lebanese government and utilities infrastructure all over Lebanon starting, as per tradition, with attacks against Lebanon’s airports, airfields and military bases, supplies and communications networks.
The Lebanese air force, which, apart from a handful of very outdated Hawker Hunter aircraft, at the moment consists mainly of helicopters used for both attack work and transport, is, significantly, awaiting delivery of 10 MiG-29 aircraft gifted from Russia which are due to arrive next month. These aircraft, when flown by experienced pilots and appropriately armed, will be a reasonable match when up against Israel’s F-16’s. Israel would certainly be keen not to have to deal with these aircraft, especially if the Lebanese contract experienced Russian pilots to fly them, and so would be anxious to take on Lebanon before these aircraft arrive.
Israel is itching to go and the imminent delivery of the 10 MiG-29’s might just be the trigger they need.