Diplomacy & defense
An Iranian general killed Sunday in an air strike on Syria, largely attributed to Israel, was not its intended target, a senior security source told Reuters on Tuesday. According to the source, Israel believed it was attacking only low-ranking Hezbollah militants planning an attack inside Israel.
Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Mohammed Allah Dadi was killed with Jihad Moughniyeh, Hezbollah commander and the son of the group's late military leader Imad Moughniyeh, in Sunday's attack on a Hezbollah convoy near the Israeli Golan Heights border.
Israel has not officially confirmed it carried out the strike.
Iran ratcheted up its threats against Israel on Tuesday in response to its alleged air strike, warning that "Zionists" would suffer "devastating thunderbolts" following the death of an Iranian general.
General Ali Jafaari issued a statement on the death of Dadi, calling the attack a "new opening point for the collapse of the Zionist regime," the pan-Arab television channel Al Mayadeen reported.
On Monday, Iran said it would "respond forcefully, at the appropriate time and place against the attacks by the Zionist terrorist entity," according to the Fars news agency.
UN observers: Syria strike likely carried out by two Israeli drones
Meanwhile, UN peacekeepers serving in the Golan saw drones flying before an Israeli air strike on Syria that killed an Iranian general, a UN spokesman said Monday.
Six Hezbollah fighters were killed in the raid near Quneitra on the Syria-controlled side of the Golan Heights.
An Israeli security source told AFP that an Israeli helicopter carried out the strike but the UN account raised the possibility that drones may have been used.
UN spokesman Farhan Haq said the UN observer force in the Golan on Sunday "observed two unmanned aerial vehicles flying from the Alpha (Israeli) side and crossing the ceasefire line."
"An hour later, smoke was observed coming from the general direction of position 30," Haq told reporters.
UN peacekeepers then saw the drones flying over the area of "position 30" and again crossing the ceasefire line, he added.
"The incident is a violation of the 1974 agreement on disengagement" between Israel and Syria, he added.
Among Hezbollah's dead was Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of an assassinated commander from the group, and Mohammed Issa, a commander responsible for Hezbollah's operations in Syria and Iraq.
Thousands mourn death of Mughniyeh
On Monday afternoon, thousands of mourners gathered in Hezbollah's south Beirut stronghold for Mughniyeh's funeral.
Jihad Mughniyeh, 25, commanded a Hezbollah group fighting rebels trying to unseat President Bashar al-Assad. Unnamed Western intelligence officials cited by Israeli media said that Mughniyeh "plotted large-scale terrorist attacks against Israeli targets, including soldiers, citizens and whole residential areas, in the Golan Heights.”
Mughniyeh was buried in the same grave as his father Imad, who was killed in a 2008 car bombing that Hezbollah blamed on Israel.
Mourners chanted "Our party is Hezbollah, our leader is Nasrallah" and "Death to Israel!" as the coffin was carried through the streets.
Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to express his condolences on the deaths of the group's fighters. No other details for the call were provided and the report has not been confirmed.
Israeli army put on high alert
Following the attack, which also killed six Iranian soldiers, the Israeli army was put on high alert on the northern border in the event of possible retaliation from Hezbollah.
Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Israeli's Chief of Staff said Monday that the army is prepared and is monitoring security developments in the north.
“The IDF is prepared, tracking all developments, and ready to act as needed,” Gantz said. “This statement is not simply a speech — it’s a matter of real operational preparedness.”
Israel's warplanes and reconnaissance aircraft “intensified their overflights above the occupied Shebaa Farms and the Golan Heights,” Lebanon'sNational News Agency reported.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah activists launched a propaganda campaign on social media Monday directed toward Israelis under the slogan: "In two words - prepare your bomb shelters." The line "Tens of thousands of fighters are prepared to die a holy death," was just one of the statements distributed on social media by a group associated with the terror organization based in Lebanon as part of the online offensive.
Israel's security cabinet to convene
Israel's security cabinet will convene Tuesday to discuss these latest developments.
Initial Hezbollah reaction was muted, with only one warning that it could prove costly for Israel, which is widely believed to have carried out the attack. But a retired senior Israeli general, who is running for the Knesset, suggested the missile attack was linked to the upcoming March 17 elections.
The Israeli military has neither confirmed nor denied the reports, in keeping with its usual policy in such cases.
Israeli analysts said the ambiguity of Jerusalem's response allows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reap the benefits of the attack – as a military and intelligence accomplishment – without having to address any ensuing issues.
Will Hezbollah respond?
Analysts believe that neither Israel nor Hezbollah are looking to start another war. The Islamist group currently has it hands tied with Syria's weakened regime (led by Assad) as well as the rise of radical Sunni groups embroiled in clashes against it in both Lebanon and Syria.
However, some Israeli analysts believe the situation along the northern front could deteriorate despite both sides not seeking an escalation.
It is expected that Hezbollah will retaliate for the deaths of its fighters with an attack carried out abroad, for which it will not take responsibility. The July 2012 attack in Bulgaria that claimed the lives of five Israeli tourists in addition to a Bulgarian bus driver is believed to have been the work of the group.