The katyusha rockets fired at the northern Israeli town of Nahariya today from southern Lebanon have raised the stakes of the current conflict significantly. They raise the specter of wide-scale bombardment of the north of the sort we saw in the summer of 2006.
On December 25, 2008, a number of katyusha rockets, apparently all aimed at Nahariya, were discovered by Lebanese security forces in southern Lebanon. They were disarmed shortly before their launch times.
This time around, the Lebanese army did not reach the rockets in time, and UNIFIL has been shown to be incapable of stopping such attacks. As Lebanese sources rushed to declare, the rockets were most likely not fired by Hizbullah, but rather by one of the Palestinian factions allied with it. Nevertheless, it would be hard to imagine that Hizbullah did not know about the firing of these rockets. Nasrallah so far has stayed away from involving Lebanon in the Gaza conflict; he may have gotten a soft go-ahead from the Iranians or Syrians, to give a green light to Palestinian proxies.
It remains to be seen whether this will lead to a major escalation. Israel will have to weigh its response carefully. Reservists are available to operate in the north, but Israel cannot afford to see Haifa, Nahirya, and who knows what other cities engulfed by Hizbullah fire. For now, it must attempt to curtail any escalation.