Israel: Lebanon Border Clash Follows JCS Chairman Visit
By: Arie Egozi
TEL AVIV: Israeli artillery bombarded a Hezbollah unit approaching the Lebanese border around 4pm local time (9am Eastern) today, while Iran reportedly prepared for live-fire wargames in the Gulf against a simulated US aircraft carrier. These latest escalations follow just after the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, visited Israel to coordinate the two countries’ efforts against Iran.It was Milley’s second trip after becoming chairman in October. Since his November visit, a US airstrike killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian Quds Force chief, relying on intelligence from an undisclosed friendly agency; mysterious explosions have ravaged Iranian nuclear sites, which Tehran has blamed on Israel; and Israeli has escalated strikes against Iranian advisors and Hezbollah proxies in Syria, where Iran may deploy its powerful Khordad anti-aircraft missile system against Israeli pilots.
Following recent strikes near Damascus, Middle Eastern sources claimed that the US is “participating” in the ongoing Israeli campaign to stop Iran from supplying precision-guided missiles to Hezbollah. Some sources claimed this was “active” participation, others that it was only “supportive.”
While details are lacking, we can say that the US has long worked closely with Israel to gather intelligence about Iranian activity in Syria and Lebanon. During his visit, Gen. Milley met with the head of Mossad, Yossi Cohen, and received a briefing from the IDF’s chief of military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Tamir Heiman. Topics included the latest update on the Iranian nuclear and ballistic missile programs, Iranian efforts to buy advanced weapons from Russia and China, and Iranian operations in the Persian Gulf, especially the transfer of long-range ballistic missiles to the Houthi militia in Yemen. Iran is under an international arms embargo that currently ends in October but which the US is hoping to extend.
Milley also spoke with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, the IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, and other senior officials. He held a video call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, discussing threats ranging from the coronavirus to Iran.
Israel is also running “dangerously short” on US-made precision-guided munitions after heavy expenditure in Syria and elsewhere, warns a recent report from the Jewish Institute for the National Security of America (JINSA).
Shortly after Milley’s arrival, the IDF announced it was elevating its readiness against a potential Hezbollah attack in retaliation for the death of one of its fighters in an alleged Israeli strike against Syria.