It would be difficult to conclude that this 2019 round ended in anything but a crushing defeat for Israel, be it on the military, psychological or PR level. Though all of this is little known to the Western public, where the media is but an echo chamber of the Israeli Army’s propaganda (even RT, Sputnik and most alternative media often take their claims at face value), there is no doubt that it was strongly present in the mind of Israel’s political & military leaders when they heard of a Hezbollah operative killed in their latest strike on Syria ten days ago. Israeli media reported the high alert status of the Army in the North, where military drills were canceled, reinforcements sent and units & defenses put in high alert in the expectation of an imminent Hezbollah attack. The usual huff and puff about Israel’s forceful response in case of an attack was heard from Netanyahu & Gantz. But as Israel is in the eye of the storm because of the coronavirus crisis & current civil unrest and daily & violent protests against Netanyahu, another round against Hezbollah, Israel’s most dreaded enemy, is the last thing they’d want. That’s why Israel took the unprecedented step of sending an apology letter to Hezbollah via the UN representative in Lebanon, as was reported by Lebanese & Israeli media, and confirmed by Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem, though the latter wouldn’t speak of its contents, and only stated that Hezbollah didn’t and wouldn’t reply to it.
Even if it was a matter of Hezbollah’s word against Israel’s, given their respective PR record, it would be safe to trust Hezbollah’s account. In fact, the Israelis themselves believe Nasrallah more than their own leaders, as was shown by polls held in Israel, Hezbollah’s huge credibility being one of its great achievements —as Norman Finkelstein stated, “Israeli leaders carefully scrutinize Nasrallah’s every word”. Anyway, Israel has gained nothing from what is most likely a new PR stunt. Whether the incident started as a mistake of Israeli troops firing at inexistent Hezbollah combatants conjured by their panicked imagination (IDF soldiers are world-class cowards), or whether it was all staged from the beginning in order to claim a fake victory before the inevitable, real retaliation, it is safe to believe that no Hezbollah attack happened, and that Israel further humiliated & discredited itself with this umpteenth lie.
However, it would be a mistake to think that all this show was futile. First, Hezbollah stated for the first time that the retaliation was coming indeed, though it was pretty much a given anyway. Second, they now have two reasons to strike back: their combatant killed in Damascus, and the attack against a civilian house, which puts all the Israeli settlers in the line of fire. Thus, Israel went from a bad situation to an even worse one. Back in August 2019, Nasrallah had already stated that the failed drone attack against Beirut’s southern suburb meant that from now on, the settlers would be seen as fair game:What happened —and didn’t happen— at the Israel-Lebanon border?