What happened: In a joint operation, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Israeli Police prevented weapons being smuggled from Lebanon into Israel.
- On Friday night IDF observation troops monitoring the border spotted suspects smuggling bags near the village of Ghajar on the Lebanese border.
- IDF troops were deployed to the scene and discovered 43 handguns worth £600,000. The guns included glock pistols, some of which were brand new, as well as magazines and silencers.
- At yesterday’s cabinet meeting Prime Minister Naftali Bennett referred to the smuggling attempt and worsening situation in Lebanon. He said: “Lebanon is on the verge of collapse, like all countries that Iran takes over, and this time, the citizens of Lebanon are paying the price. It must be understood that the citizens of Lebanon are paying a heavy price because of the Iranian takeover of the country. We are closely monitoring what is happening there, both the Defence Minister and the Foreign Minister, and we will continue to be prepared.”
Context: This was the largest known smuggling attempt in the last few years from Lebanon into Israel.
- It was the fifth smuggling attempt this year. A month ago, 15 guns and dozens of kilos of drugs worth around £440,000 were confiscated after a smuggling attempt.
- The IDF is investigating whether the smuggled weapons were intended for terror or criminal purposes. Either way, the military is concerned that Hezbollah could be responsible.
- It is part of the wider economic collapse and the acute financial pressure that Hezbollah operatives are desperately looking to bring in some extra income.
- The overall situation in Lebanon appears dire, with massive inflation, a lack of electricity, the country running out of petrol, almost no medicine available and people fighting over the food that is left in the shops.
- There is a genuine concern that the government will collapse and that Hezbollah will fill the vacuum, with the support from Iran.
- Last week Defence Minister Gantz offered aid to Lebanon. “As an Israeli, as a Jew, as a human being, it wrenches the heart to see people starving in the streets of Lebanon.”
- However, Hezbollah will not let Lebanon receive aid from Israel.
- IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Kochavi warned last week: “The Lebanese government no longer decides on matters of war. Hezbollah is the one that decides. Operation Guardian of the Walls is a sign of what is to come for the residents of Lebanon.”
Looking ahead: If Israel does want to send humanitarian aid to Lebanon it needs to find the appropriate mechanism, most likely through the UN.
- Israel can also play a role diplomatically by encouraging other countries to assist. This would also help signal to the people of Lebanon that they are not Israel’s enemy.
- Others within the security establishment are insisting no aid is sent while Hezbollah continues to build precision-guided missile factories in the heart of Beirut.