Syria war chips away at Is­rael’s north­ern foe

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY ANSHEL PF­EF­FER

RE­PORTS THAT Hizbol­lah is send­ing ever-younger fighters to Syria — some as young as 16 — is a fur­ther in­di­ca­tion that the Le­banese Shia or­gan­i­sa­tion is be­com­ing dras­ti­cally stretched as it op­er­ates on four fronts.

Hizbol­lah con­tin­ues to main­tain an arse­nal of around 60,000 rock­ets near Is­rael’s north­ern bor­der while it fights in Le­banon, Syria and Iraq. The move­ment has also trained teams to op­er­ate ad­vanced anti-tank mis­siles should Is­rael con­front it on the ground once again.

How­ever, since the Sec­ond Le­banon War eight years ago, Hizbol­lah has re­frained from fir­ing at Is­rael.

Over the past three years, Hizbol­lah, op­er­at­ing un­der the aegis of of­fi­cers from Iran’s over­seas Quds Force, has been heav­ily in­volved in fight­ing along­side As­sad regime troops in Syria.

Hun­dreds of fighters, in­clud­ing se­nior com­man­ders, have been killed in the ef­forts to pre­serve the regime’s con­trol of the strate­gi­cally sig­nif­i­cant bor­der ar­eas with Le­banon.

In re­cent months, Hizbol­lah has also sent per­son­nel to Iraq, where the Iran­backed Shia gov­ern­ment has been rapidly los­ing ground to Is­lamic State (IS). While the Le­banese are in more of an “ad­vi­sory” role in Iraq, the bat­tle­field there is a fur­ther strain on its re­sources, es­pe­cially as Iraqi-Shia units fight­ing in Syria have n o w b e e n re­called.

In ad­di­tion, the Syr­ian war has ex­panded into Le­banon. Last week, Hizbol­lah­con­front­edISan­dother Syr­ian Sunni groups around the town of Ar­sal.

Ac­cord­ing to Is­raeli in­tel­li­gence, at least 400 ex­pe­ri­enced Hizbol­lah fighters have been killed so far in the Syr­ian fight­ing. While the near future does not bode well for the move­ment, Is­raeli com­man­ders have said that Hizbol­lah is also gain­ing com­bat ex­pe­ri­ence that could ben­e­fit it in a future con­fronta­tion against Is­rael. In ad­di­tion, Hizbol­lah is con­tin­u­ously try­ing to smug­gle mis­siles from Syria to Le­banon.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Bride and groom cel­e­brate

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