Israel is bracing for potential retaliation tonight after an Israeli military helicopter crossed into Syria and killed five Hezbollah fighters, including some key figures in the group’s anti-ISIS operations, along with one Iranian who was traveling with them.
Among the slain were Mohammed Issa, the commander for all operations against ISIS, an Iranian adviser named Ali Reza al-Tabatabai, and perhaps most significantly, Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of a former Hezbollah military leader.
The attack is a serious blow to anti-ISIS operations in Syria, as the Assad government has increasingly relied on Hezbollah fighters, led by Issa, to resist the jihadists’ expansion deeper into their territory.
Hezbollah’s official news channel warned Israel the attack could “lead to a costly adventure that will put the Middle East at stake,” but while most Israelis expect retaliation for the attack, few expect it to snowball into an outright war.
Israeli officials are claiming that Mughniyeh was planning to attack the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, though many are doubting this claim, and analysts say they don’t believe it was a targeted assassination so much as Israel seeing a group of Hezbollah fighters in a convoy and deciding to attack them.