An Iranian general and a senior Hezbollah commander killed in yesterday's airstrike in the Syrian Golan Heights were not actually the intended targets, a senior Israeli military source told Reuters Tuesday.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity as Israel has not officially claimed responsibility for the airstrike, said the Israeli Air Force was targeting what it believed to be a Hezbollah operational cell comprised of low-level terror operatives, on its way to carry out an attack against IDF forces along the Israeli-Syrian border.
"We did not expect the outcome in terms of the stature of those killed – certainly not the Iranian general. We thought we were hitting an enemy field unit that was on its way to carry out an attack on us at the frontier fence," the source related.
"We got the alert, we spotted the vehicle, identified it was an enemy vehicle and took the shot. We saw this as a limited tactical operation."
Iran has since vowed revenge for the strike, with Revolutionary Guards chief General Mohammad Ali Jafari telling Iran's Fars news agency that: "These martyrdoms proved the need to stick with jihad. The Zionists must await ruinous thunderbolts."
"The Revolutionary Guards will fight to the end of the Zionist regime… We will not rest easy until this epitome of vice is totally deleted from the region's geopolitics," he vowed.
Israel is certainly taking the threats seriously, placing forces along its northern borders with Lebanon and Syria on high alert and reportedly deploying several Iron Dome missile defense batteries to the area.
But the source said that, while some kind of response was likely, a full-scale war was not in anyone's interest at this point.
"They are almost certain to respond. We are anticipating that, but I think it's a fair assumption that a major escalation is not in the interest of either side," he said.
Both Hezbollah and Iran are currently in a tight spot, having committed hugely in terms of both manpower and resources to the Syrian civil war on the side of embattled president Bashar al-Assad. Hezbollah in particular – which has lost hundreds of men battling Syrian rebels – is said to be on the verge of bankruptcy due to plummeting oil prices which in turn forced its Iranian sponsors to scale-back funding.