Hizbollah boosted as focus shifts
THE ELEVATION of Daesh in the wake of the Paris attacks to Global Enemy Number One has mixed implications for Israel.
It means that the ongoing wave of Palestinian attacks will be starved of international attention. Whether this will dampen down the flames or fuel Palestinian desperation remains to be seen.
The more profound issue for Israel is how the new focus on Daesh will affect Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hizbollah. Hizbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah
Iran is gradually being seen by the international community less as the Assad regime’s main sponsor and more as part of a possible solution to the Syrian chaos and even an ally against Daesh. On the flip side, however, is the fact that Russia is President Bashar alAssad’s chief patron, thereby eroding Iran’s influence in Damascus.
It is widely recognised that Russian support for Assad and the new international focus on Daesh has given Hizbollah — the Syrian regime’s main military ally — a boost, despite the fact that the Syrian war has taken a heavy toll on the Shia force. Israeli intelligence estimates that around
1,500 of its fighters and commanders have been killed and thousands wounded. This is a large slice of its 20,000-strong force. However, the war has provided Hizbollah with battle experience. And while the IAF has destroyed at least 15 Hizbollah weapons convoys bound for Lebanon, some have got through.
Hizbollah has continued to build up its missile stock in southern Lebanon, all pointed at Israel. Their sheer quantity and the fact that most of them are hidden in civilian areas mean that any operation to destroy them would take days at least, be costly in civilian casualties and give Hizbollah time to fire a large number of rockets at Israel.
The question now is when a weakened Hizbollah might use those rockets. In the past, they were seen as a way for Iran to threaten Israel. Following the nuclear deal, such an attack is no longer on the cards, and with Hizbollah embroiled in Syria, how they may be used against Israel remains unclear.