Following the January 18 attack that killed several high-ranking members of Hezbollah and Iranian military general Mohammad Ali Allahdadi in the Syrian Golan Heights, Hezbollah allegedly launched a rocket from Syria (although there remains some controversy over whether or not Hezbollah did in fact fire a missile, or if this attack was collateral damage from the Syrian civil war). The rocket, fired on Tuesday January 27, hit an Israeli military vehicle in Shebaa farms, killing two Israeli soldiers and injuring seven others.
While the January 18 attack has yet to be denied or confirmed by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu or Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Ya’alon has stated the attack was a necessary counter-terrorism measure, regardless of who was behind it.
The recent attacks and counterattacks in the Golan area have increasingly turned the conflict over the disputed territory into an international affair. On Wednesday, January 28, Israel retaliated against a Hezbollah target in Lebanon, resulting in the death of a Spanish soldier who was serving in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.
Following contact between the Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers of Israel and Spain, the two countries have agreed their armies will undertake a joint investigation into the death of the Spanish soldier.
The death of General Ali Allahdadi has elicited a strong reaction from Iran, as well. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian stated that Iran would respond to the death of General Ali Allahdadi. As quoted by Al Jazeera, the Revolutionary Guards’ acting commander, General Hossein Salami, said: “We tell them [Israelis to] await retaliation but we will decide about its timing, place and the strength.”
Ownership of the Golan Heights is hotly disputed, not only because every victory over land claims carries symbolic weight in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but also because the Golan is a strategically important region.
Since Israel gained control of the Golan Heights in the 1967 war, it has been constructing settlements. Approximately 20,000 Israeli settlers currently reside in the area. While a U.N. peacekeeping force has been stationed there since 1974, after the Yom Kippur War, Israel unilaterally annexed the region in 1981. The Golan Heights’s high elevations facilitates surveillance operations, and its watershed is the source of approximately one third of Israeli’s water.