By Avi Issacharoff for the Times of Israel (April 27):
Less than 48 hours after the Israeli army reportedly attacked targets in Syria on Friday-Saturday, a Syrian cell on Sunday tried to mount a terror attack against targets inside Israeli territory.
Israel fired on the cell, which was composed of Druze gunmen, scoring a direct hit as its members attempted to plant a large explosive device intended for future use against Israeli army troops or civilians moving near the border.
Contrary to initial reports, the cell was not part of Hezbollah, which has not been operating in this fashion recently. Except for a rocket attack on the Givati troops in late January, Hezbollah has been trying to avoid leaving fingerprints that would draw an Israeli response.
The fact is, however, that most of the Druze on the Syrian Golan Heights remain loyal to the regime of Bashar Assad and to the Hezbollah troops who fight for him. No distinction can be made any longer between the Syrian and Lebanese fronts, or between the Syrian army and the Druze on the one hand and Hezbollah on the other.
Hezbollah has been using Druze, Palestinians and, of course, Assad’s own troops to strike at Israeli targets. For more than a year, this has been one front where Hezbollah has been trying to take advantage of the power vacuum in the Syrian area in order to create a deterrent balance against Israel.
Even after the reported Israeli weekend attack on targets in the Qalamun Mountains, it seemed that Hezbollah would try to mount a limited response, not one that might lead to a large-scale, violent confrontation. Hezbollah has no interest in a conflict of that kind, but it wants to make it clear to Israel that there is a price to pay for what it views as crossing red lines.
Media outlets identified with Hezbollah, such as Al Mayadeen, claimed there was a further Israeli attack on Sunday night. But it seems that the source of those explosions in the hot Qalamun sector was the intensifying battles between Hezbollah and the Syrian army against Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front. While Hezbollah and the Syrian army had succeeded in cleansing the mountain strip of the radical Sunni troops in the past, Islamic State forces has managed to retake various territories in the area.