Crossfire War – Israel Expands Regional Offensive to Include South Lebanon

Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=TEHRAN – GAZA – BEIRUT WATCH – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – Baghdad – El Arish – Damascus – Gaza – Beirut/Jerusalem – Paris – Rome – Cairo – Amman – London – Washington; Israel Planned Offensive Expanded to Include South Lebanon – Hezbollah – IDF Incursion into South Gaza – Hamas Warns of “Unexpected Explosions” – Serbia Veterans Enter Kosovo – India States Next Two Months Crucial for Kashmir

Night Watch: BEIRUT – Surrounded by regional enemies, orchestrated by Tehran, Jerusalem seems to be seriously considering an offensive not unlike the one conducted in June 1967 when Israel realized they were going to be attacked so Israel attacked first. Israel caught the enemy completely by surprise and won the war in six days, its most spectacular victory. Circumstances are very similar now with Hezbollah-Damascus-Tehran accusing Israel for the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh as the final reason to attack-destroy Israel as daily Qassam rocket-mortar fire continues from Gaza. Tomorrow Syria is to release the results of its investigation and Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is to make an important speech the same day with both of their positions supported by Iran. It should not be surprising the Jerusalem Post and the London based daily Al-Hayat are now reporting Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak has used intermediaries in Ankara to deliver a message-warning to Syria President Bashar Assad that Israel intends to expand its operations against Hezbollah. [JPOST]

I am not sure how much operational detail the message contained but it could have been implied Damascus’ support for Hezbollah would be attacked also. Israel would be stupid to sit back and wait for Hezbollah to strike first as they have been ordered to do by Tehran through their statements by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and commanders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. It was an open secret Jerusalem already had a major offensive planned for the Gaza Strip to finally end the Qassam attacks but current events on Israel’s northern border are even more threatening as in the 2006 war. The Gaza offensive will still occur but it will be secondary to the one in south Lebanon and beyond into Syria if need be. Israel’s military leader Lieutenant-General Gaby Ashkenazi was quoted this week as saying Israel needs to achieve a “quick” victory and that definitely means more than just the pinpoint raids against some enemy rocket squad. The scale and range of Israel’s two front offensive this year will be multiplied many times over the one in 2006.

al-Shouka – In the meantime Israel continues to respond to the constant Qassam rocket-mortar fire from the Gaza Strip. Israel Defense Force (IDF) conducted a large operation with tanks and bulldozers in south Gaza east of the Rafah Terminal. Xinhua reports the IDF encountered heavy machine gun fire as Palestinians rushed reinforcements to al-Shouka an area of frequent raids since this is one of the areas used quite often to launch Qassam rockets. The bulldozers leveled makeshift houses and groves used by Palestinian militants as cover. [XINHUA]

Gaza – Hamas is again warning of “unexpected explosions” against the continued siege of the Gaza Strip not only by Israel but also by Egypt at the Rafah Terminal, destroyed by Hamas last month but re-constructed by Egyptian security under the watchful eye of Hamas and their political partner in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood. The warnings mentioned only Israel but Hamas’ most recent and serious, confrontational negotiations have been with Egypt’s government. For the past month the two have come to an arrangement of mutual suspicions and hostility as Hamas – Tehran are by no means satisfied with the limited freedom of movement of men and material for use against Israel. Of course what is used against Israel can and will be used against Egypt. Xinhua quoted Hamas spokesman Ahmed Yousef, aide to Prime Minister Ismail Haneya, “Don’t bet on Gaza’s patience. Gaza is a barrel of burning gun powder and it can’t be subject to the logic of evacuations and assessments by the others.” [XINHUA]

Cairo – Hamas will soon be fighting its own two front war, against Israel and against the government of Egypt President Hosni Mubarak and they have a lot of support in Egypt against Mubarak who has ruled the country oppressively for quite some time in the name of internal security. What is secure for Mubarak is oppression for a lot of the population as the Gulf-Times/Reuters reports 180 members of the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested in provinces all over the country during the past week. [GULFTIMES]

Merdare – Wearing the uniform of the Yugoslav Army (VJ) several hundred Serbian veterans crossed into Kosovo early this afternoon. B92 reports they passed through a cordon of Kosovo Police (KPS) with no difficulty and advanced further into the province until they were blocked by NATO-KFOR units in full riot gear. KFOR called reinforcements and there is at least one armored personnel carrier (APC). The veterans are chanting the slogans, “Kosovo is Ours”, “Kosovo Belongs to Serbia”, “We Won’t Give Kosovo Away.” So far there are no reports of violence. [B92]

Srinagar – NewsBlaze reports S. K. Jain, India Inspector-General of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Kashmir, has stated to media the next two months will be crucial for the province. “These will decide which way the wind will blow. We have asked our men to remain alert and foil all attempts by militants to carry out strikes. We have directed them to prevent the militants from moving to the plains from the upper reaches.” 600-700 Islamic militants, supported by Tehran-Islamabad are already believed to be in the province while estimates say between 2,500-3,000 more are on “launching pads” in Pakistan’s part of Kashmir waiting for the word to infiltrate. [NEWSBLAZE]

It was during February last year President-General Pervez Musharraf visited Tehran and presented them with his offensive “Action Plan”, fully supported by Iran. In 1999 it was General Musharraf who designed and carried out the Kargil Probe in Kashmir that nearly set off the fourth major war between the two South Asian rivals since their independence in 1947. I suspect Pakistan has been waiting for Iran to be ready. If we begin to receive reports of large numbers of Islamic fighters infiltrating from Pakistan’s part of Kashmir then the low level war, which began in November 1989, will then become (f)allout.

Willard Payne is an international affairs analyst who specializes in International Relations. A graduate of Western Illinois University with a concentration in East-West Trade and East-West Industrial Cooperation, he has been providing incisive analysis to NewsBlaze. He is the author of Imagery: The Day Before.