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Terror attack in Jerusalem, as Hezbollah continues to threaten offshore gas rig

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What happened: In the last few days Israel has faced a multi-layered range of threats, including; stabbing, shooting, rocket fire, infiltration by UAV, Hezbollah threatening war, cyberattacks and advancements in Iran’s nuclear programme.

  • Yesterday a 41-year-old Israeli man was stabbed multiple times in his upper body by an assailant with a screwdriver while on board a bus in Jerusalem. He was hospitalised in moderate but stable condition.
  • Also yesterday, a single bullet was fired into the Gaza border community of Netiv HaAsara. According to the IDF, the bullet was fired from the Gaza Strip and hit an industrial building. No one was injured.
  • This followed four rockets that were fired out of the Gaza Strip at the weekend. Two rockets were aimed at Ashkelon another two towards the Kiryat Gat area. The Iron Dome missile defence system intercepted one rocket, the others landed in open areas.
  • In the north on Monday, the IDF intercepted another drone that crossed over from Lebanon, presumed to have been launched by Hezbollah.
  • Yesterday Hezbollah’s leader Nasrallah once again threatened Israel over access for Lebanon to off-shore oil and natural gas. He is quoted saying: “We will secure our rights either through war or without war.”
  • At the beginning of the week, Israel’s Health Ministry and Tel Aviv Municipality websites were targeted by cyberattack. A pro-Iranian, Iraqi group Al-Tahira claimed responsibility. Last week the same group claimed that it hacked the Jerusalem Municipality website and the website of Rafael Advanced Defence Systems.
  • On Sunday a senior adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei told Al Jazeera: “In a few days we were able to enrich uranium up to 60 per cent and we can easily produce 90 per cent enriched uranium … Iran has the technical means to produce a nuclear bomb.”

Context: Of all the threats Israel faces, Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy, with its vast array of missiles remains the most potent.

  • The UAV from Lebanon was the latest in recent infiltration attempts, after two separate instances of UAVs were launched towards Israel’s northern off-shore natural gas rig in the last three weeks.
  • Both Prime Minister Lapid and Defence Minister Gantz toured the Lebanese border yesterday, with Lapid taking a flight over the offshore gas rig as well. Lapid said: “Israel is interested in Lebanon being a stable and prosperous neighbour that is neither a platform for Hezbollah terrorism nor an Iranian tool.  The activity of Hezbollah endangers Lebanon, its citizens and their wellbeing. While we have no interest in escalation, Hezbollah’s aggression is unacceptable and is liable to lead the entire region into an unnecessary escalation, just when there is a genuine opportunity for Lebanon to develop its energy resources.”
  • Yesterday’s terror attack in Jerusalem came after a period of relative calm.  Between March and May there were seven deadly attacks that let to 19 people killed.
  • The profile of the assailant in this case was also unusual; 41 years old, father of three, from a relatively prosperous Ramallah neighbourhood. He had a permit to be in Israel and a ‘businessman’s pass’ allowing for extended travel, including permission to fly out of Ben Gurion Airport. The attack ended when he was shot by an Israeli civilian, a Ynet photographer, who happened to be at the scene.
  • Following the bullet fired into Netiv HaAsara, Israeli fighter jets attacked a Hamas military post in the northern Gaza Strip.

Looking forward: Israel is concerned there will more Hezbollah attempts of targeting the Karish natural gas platform. Although positioned inside Israel’s exclusive economic zone, it is close to the Lebanese border.

  • Israel expects the rig to be operational in the next month. It has relayed a message to Hezbollah that an attack on the platform is not only an attack on Israel, but an attack on every country to which Israel is to sell its natural gas; including European countries and Egypt.
  • Israel is hoping the US Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs, Amos Hochstein, will be successful in reaching an understanding with the Lebanese government over the disputed maritime border.