Iran-backed Hezbollah under the command of Iranian general

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Hassan Nasrallah

Hassan Nasrallah

Brigadier General Qassam Soleimani

Brigadier General Qassam Soleimani

IRGC – Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

IRGC – Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

IRGC-Qods Force

IRGC-Qods Force

Tensions are rising between Hizballah, Israel and Lebanon following a series of incidents that occurred over the weekend, leading to a report of a potential “calculated strike” by Hizballah on Israel.

On Saturday, an Israeli drone strike killed two Hizballah operatives in Syria. Two drones crashed on Sunday in Beirut, including one that caused an explosion, which damaged a Hizballah media office. Hizballah said the drones were rigged with explosives.

Though Israel has not claimed responsibility for the drone crashes in Beirut, Lebanese President Michel Aoun characterized them in a meeting with a United Nations official as an “Israeli assault,” likening them to a “declaration of war which allows us to resort to our right to defending our sovereignty.” Prime Minister Saad Hariri called on the U.N. Security Council to reject the “blatant violation” of Lebanon’s sovereignty, which threatens “regional stability.”

ifmat - Iran-backed Hezbollah under the command of Iranian general

IDF chart depicting the chain of command for an attempted drone attack on Israel (Photo: Israel Defense Force)

Hizballah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah vowed a retaliation to the weekend’s events, and a source close to Hizballah told Reuters on Tuesday that “the direction now is for a calculated strike” by the Lebanese group. The source was quoted as saying the strike “is being arranged in a way which wouldn’t lead to a war.” Regional sources cited by Reuters say Israel and Hizballah have formed an unwritten understanding by which they can trade fire in Syria but not within Lebanon or Israel, lest they escalate to war.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) responded to Nasrallah’s comments, saying: “Should the State of Lebanon allow Hezbollah to attack Israel on behalf of Iran? We will defend Israel.”

Prior to the drone crashes, an IDF strike in Aqraba, Syria, on Saturday killed two Lebanese Hizballah operatives, Hassan Yousef Zbeeb and Yasser Ahmad Daher. Nasrallah confirmed the deaths of the two Hizballah operatives, childhood friends in their early 20s, in a speech on Sunday.

The IDF said Monday that Zbeeb and Daher were behind an attempt to launch a “large-scale attack of multiple killer drones on Israel” from an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) site in Aqraba, a village southwest of Damascus. The IDF said it thwarted the attack, which it claimed was directly overseen by IRGC-QF leader Qassem Soleimani, by “striking Iranian Quds Force operatives and Shiite Militia targets in Syria.”

Footage from earlier in the week released Sunday by the IDF showed four alleged IRGC-QF operatives in Syria carrying a “killer drone that they intended to use for an attack on Israel,” the IDF said. The IDF also published a flow chart indicating that Zbeeb and Daher were among the four operatives pictured in the footage.

The IDF also released a photo of Zbeeb and Daher “flying to Iran to receive drone-operation training.” The photo, originally posted in June 2018 to a social media account of Daher, depicts Zbeeb and Daher boarding a Mahan Air plane in Lebanon.

Mahan Air is an Iranian commercial airline sanctioned by the U.S. for providing transportation services to Iranian-backed organizations, such as Hizballah. The IRGC-QF was sanctioned in 2007; Soleimani has been designated several times. Hizballah has been subject to U.S. sanctions since 1995, though the Trump administration in recent years has increased the pressure on the group.

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Hassan Yousef Zbeeb and Yasser Ahmad Daher boarding a Mahan Air plane in Lebanon (Photo: Yasser Ahmad Daher’s social media account)

Zbeeb is the son of a member of the board of directors of Al Manar TV, a satellite television operation controlled by Hizballah, according to local media reports.

Both Zbeeb and Daher were educated in Lebanon through the Mahdi Schools run by Hizballah. After finishing high school about five years ago, they were granted a scholarship through Hizballah’s Educational Mobilization Unit to study Farsi in Qazvin, Iran, according to a report from a media outlet sympathetic to Hizballah. Following the year-long language program, the two were accepted into an aircraft engineering program at the Imam Hossein University in Tehran, which was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2011 for being controlled by the IRGC.

Zbeeb and Daher were buried Monday at a ceremony in Beirut’s southern suburbs attended by Hizballah leadership, including Hashem Safieddine, the president of the Hizballah Executive Council, according to media reports.

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Source » kharon

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