Israel will not hit back at Hezbollah following the attack by Iran's Lebanese proxy militia on an IDF force that killed two soldiers last week – this is the consensus emerging from media reports by Israeli military affairs experts.
The reports indicated that the IDF's high command was in an extremely combative mood following the ambush, but that this quickly changed when Hezbollah announced that it was not interested in further escalation and that it felt it had gotten its revenge for the Israeli attack on January 18th that killed six of its men – including senior commander Jihad Mughniyeh – and an Iranian general. The men had been involved in preparing a Hezbollah presence in the Syrian Golan Heights, from which to attack Israel.
Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah told his followers in a speech Friday that Hezbollah’s response to any future Israeli attack will no longer be limited to Lebanese territory and that the militia would no longer respect "the rules of engagement.” This appeared to be an indirect way of saying that Hezbollah could begin to attack Israel from the Syrian Golan Heights – which is precisely what Israel was trying to prevent by eliminating Mughniyeh.
"I want to be clear: the resistance will no longer recognize any such thing as the rules of engagement, or of confrontation," said Nasrallah. "It is our right – legally, in human terms and morally – to face the enemy anywhere, any time and in any way we deem appropriate," he warned.
"We will bear Israel responsible for any (future) killing in cold blood of one of Hezbollah's young men," he threatened.
Nasrallah explained to his Beirut audience – which he addressed via satellite link from his bunker hideout – that the attack against the IDF was a precise tit-for-tat that got back neatly at Israel for its Golan strike:
"They killed us in broad daylight, and we did too," said Nasrallah, adding that Israel's strike was at "11:30 a.m. or 11:45, and ours was at 11:25 or 11:35."
"They killed and wounded our men, we killed and wounded theirs," added the Hezbollah leader. “They struck two cars, we struck two cars. Missiles for missiles.” He acknowledged that Israel's strike killed more men than Hezbollah's did but added with menacing coyness that this imbalance could be redressed in the future.
Hezbollah proudly noted that Israel thought Hezbollah would say nothing after the killing of its senior men on Syrian soil, but Hezbollah acknowledged what had happened and it was Israel that began to act hesitantly, and to wait tensely for Hezbollah's response.
Israeli analysts say that Iran and Hezbollah do not want the confrontation with Israel to deteriorate into war, since Iran is hoping to get the United States to sign off on a deal that would let it move forward with its nuclear weapons program, and since Hezbollah is currently tied up in the Syrian civil war.
Apparently, Israel, too, is not interested in escalation. The questions that remain are whether Hezbollah will stop developing its Golan infrastructure, and whether Israel will again strike it if it does not stop. If the answers to these questions are positive, then Israel's strike achieved its main purpose. And yet, the blood of Major Yochai Kalangel and Sgt. Dor Nini hy"d, who were killed in the Hezbollah ambush, will remain unavenged, and the IDF's general deterrence will have been knocked down a notch.