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January 5, 2016 4:26 pm

Report: Russia Tries to Rein in Hezbollah After IDF Convoy Attack

avatar by Eliezer Sherman

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A Hezbollah outpost near the Israel-Lebanon border, following Israel's withdrawal in 2000. Photo: Wikipedia.

A Hezbollah outpost near the Israel-Lebanon border, following Israel’s withdrawal in 2000. Photo: Wikipedia.

Russia encouraged Hezbollah to keep the peace with Israel on the Lebanese border, Israeli national radio reported on Tuesday.

According to Saudi-owned Al Arabiya, Moscow wants to prevent a violent conflict from erupting between Hezbollah and the IDF beyond Monday’s attack, in which Hezbollah bombed an IDF convoy in the largely rural region straddling the hilly Israeli-Lebanese border, Israel Radio reported.

Hezbollah’s ongoing involvement in the Syrian civil war, the deepening crisis between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which backs Hezbollah, and the group’s ongoing battles with rebel groups on the Lebanese border have not drawn Hezbollah’s attention away from its open-ended battle with Israel, according to the report.

Russia and Hezbollah are both fighting rebel groups in Syria opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose crackdown against the opposition has resulted in 350,000 dead and millions displaced. Some reports have suggested that Hezbollah may have lost up to 2,000 fighters in the fighting in Syria, particularly around Damascus and the Lebanese border.

Senior IDF officials commented on Monday’s blast, which Hezbollah said targeted an IDF convoy carrying a senior army officer, saying it was an “exceptionally large explosive device.”

The attack came two weeks after the IDF reportedly assassinated Hezbollah operative Samir Kuntar, whose death Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed to avenge.

The IDF has been on high alert on the northern border for the two weeks since Kuntar’s death, and a senior military official said Israel was not underestimating the threat even now. “We are at the very highest levels of preparedness,” he said, according to Israel Radio.

The IDF responded to Monday’s blast by firing about 40 shells at various predetermined targets in Lebanon. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon met with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot and other senior defense officials, including the head of IDF intelligence, and decided ultimately to keep the IDF on high alert.

A senior IDF official told Israel Radio that the army does not believe Hezbollah wants to spark a larger conflict or escalate tensions with Israel.

“Has Nasrallah settled the score over Kuntar’s death? It’s unclear. The defense authorities and the IDF will in any case be prepared for the possibility that Hezbollah will launch additional attacks against Israel,” the official told Israel Radio.

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