Hizbol­lah boosted as fo­cus shifts

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - ANSHEL PF­EF­FER

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.

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

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