Hizbullah, apparently hoping to relieve pressure from their Hamas allies in Gaza, launched a barrage of mortar rounds and rockets into Galilee this morning, and under cover of the attack ambushed an Israeli tank and a Humvee, killing 8 IDF soldiers and capturing two. They seem to have badly miscalculated, as Israel has responded by bombing the hell out of Hizbullah bases in Lebanon. Israel has publicly called the attack an act of war by Lebanon, and IDF special forces are presently operating inside Lebanese territory. A roundup of blog reactions can be found here. Rumors speak of a declaration of war by Israel later tonight.
The Jerusalem Post notes that while Israel is ostensibly acting against Lebanon, its choice of targets are carefully considered to impact Hizbullah, Hamas, and their masters in Syria. Syria is the true instigator here, not Lebanon; it is safe to say that the Lebanese are horrified by the present turn of events, and Hizbullah has never considered itself bound by Lebanese policy.
According to the Post, Israel cannot attack Syria directly due to the dictates of international law. Frequent readers will know with what high regard I hold international laws of this kind, that turn a blind eye to the actions of true tyrants and murderers but intervene only when they can impede those acting in self-defense. Given that Syria is clearly the destabilizing element here (along with its ally, Iran), I believe that the Israeli response should include Syria as well. At a minimum, the IDF should attack known terror bases in Syria; more appropriate would be a crippling strike to the Syrian military and government.
Syria is treading on dangerous ground. There are already several reasons for Israel, the United States, and Iraq to treat Bashar Assad's regime as an enemy: its complicity in supporting al-Qaida in Iraq, its alliance with Iran, its continuing interference in Lebanon via its stooge Hizbullah, its support for Hamas and especially its providing sanctuary to Khaled Mashaal, Hamas's true leader. But even before the latest escalation, Syria was intervening so heavily to keep the violence in Gaza going that Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak publicly noted that negotiations he led broke down due to "counter-pressures by outside parties" on Hamas. With the northern front exploding, Syria seems to be doing everything it can to invite an attack.
Israel should take Assad up on his invitation. Flyovers of Assad's palace clearly have had no deterrent effect. The next flights should drop bombs, and lots of them. Israel needs to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that kidnapping its citizens will accomplish nothing for the terror groups and their masters — nothing beyond their own devastation.
The previous lopsided "prisoner exchanges" wherein Israel freed hundreds of terrorists in exchange for single hostages were, in the final analysis, a terrible mistake. The Talmud has a general rule that one should not pay higher ransoms than the going rate, for fear of encouraging more kidnapping. This is precisely what has occurred here; the terrorists expected that Israel would back down, perhaps after some token strikes to "demonstrate resolve," and would inevitably give Damascus what it wants. It is past time to bury that expectation once and for all.