Rockets from Lebanon: Assad's last stand?

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 30, 2011

The launch of two Katyusha rockets across the Lebanese border at an Israeli village in the Western Galilee in the night between Monday and Tuesday did not cause any casualties and succeeded only in setting light to a gas storage unit, but it served as a reminder that the growing Syrian civil war could boil over into neighbouring Lebanon and Israel.

Over five years since the end of the Second Lebanon War, Hizbollah has not fired a shot or a missile over the border, the handful of Katyusha launches in this period have all been fired by Palestinian splinter-groups. In this week's case, the "Abdallah Azzam battalions," a Salafist group with Al-Qaida ties, took responsibility for the rockets.

In response, the IDF fired a salvo of artillery shells but officers said that no further action is currently planned.

The past five years have been the calmest period on the Israel-Lebanon border for nearly four decades. This week's launch was the first such attack in two years, but Hizbollah and Syria have a stockpile of some 200,000 rockets of various sizes capable of reaching targets in Israel and there is concern that should the embattled Assad regime feel its days are numbers, it may decide to provoke conflict with Israel or use its Lebanese ally, to divert international attention and pressure.

The probability of such an outcome is unsure. While some Israeli intelligence analysts believe that "Assad is in so much trouble, he knows that even a limited skirmish with Israel will finish him off," others fear that "with his back to the wall, he could do anything."

For now, the IDF is "closely monitoring the situation in Syria without intending to intervene in any way" as IDF Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz said last week.

Last updated: 1:01pm, November 30 2011