Report: As Syrian War Winds Down, Israel Sets Sights on Hizbullah


With President Bashar Assad seemingly poised to survive the Syrian civil war, Israeli leaders are growing nervous about the intentions of his Iranian patrons and their emerging corridor of influence across the region, the Associated Press reported.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is agitating against Iran in global forums like this week's U.N. General Assembly. The Israeli military is holding war games targeting the Iran-backed Hizbullah, and generals are issuing tough threats in hopes of avoiding what could be another ruinous Israeli entanglement in Lebanon, this time with Iranian advisers and troops on Israel's doorstep.

Israel has long identified Iran as its biggest threat, citing its suspect nuclear program, development of long-range missiles and hostile rhetoric. But gains by Syrian troops and their Iranian-backed allies have given those concerns new urgency.

Israel fears the establishment of a Shiite "corridor," with land links from Iran to Lebanon, allowing the movement of fighters and weapons across the region. At the heart of those fears is Hizbullah that battled Israel to a stalemate in a monthlong war in 2006. The group has greatly beefed up its arsenal of rockets and missiles since then, and after years of fighting in

Syria, is more battle-tested than ever.

In his U.N. address Tuesday, Netanyahu warned that Iran was spreading a "curtain of tyranny and terror" across the region, and said Israel would defend itself.

"We will act to prevent Iran from establishing permanent military bases in Syria for its air, sea and ground forces. We will act to prevent Iran from producing deadly weapons in Syria or in Lebanon for use against us. And we will act to prevent Iran from opening new terror fronts against Israel along our northern border," he said.

Israel last week wrapped up its largest military exercise in two decades — mobilizing some 30,000 troops to train for the next war against Hizbullah.

In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, the commander of the exercise, Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman, said that despite Hizbullah's gains, the balance of power has greatly shifted in favor of Israel since 2006.

"If Hizbullah's capabilities have grown linearly, ours have grown exponentially, in intelligence, in targets and in the ability to attack," he said. If fighting resumes, "the damage to Hizbullah will be severe, mortal and comprehensive."

He said he was pleased with the performance of his troops, and said the two-week drill should send a powerful message of deterrence.

"We have no intentions at this time to go out and defeat Hizbullah. Our goal is to maintain the quiet and stability in the north," said Hayman, the commander of the army's Northern Corps.

Israeli forces on Tuesday shot down what Israel said was a Hizbullah surveillance drone that veered too close to the Syrian border with Israel. The military said the unmanned aircraft was Iranian-made and launched from a Damascus airport before it was shot down near the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan Heights.

After six years of fighting that claimed at least 400,000 lives, Assad's forces appear to have finally gained the upper hand as they recapture territory from the Islamic State group and opposition fighters.

Russia, which is waging an air campaign on behalf of Assad, and Iran and Hizbullah, which have fighters on the ground, have provided crucial support and are expected to play a major role in postwar Syria.

"The vector is quite clear right now, with the Syrian army, Hizbullah and the Shiite militias gradually regaining control of large swaths of the country," said Chagai Tzuriel, the director general of the Israeli Intelligence Ministry.

Israel has said any permanent presence of Iranian or Hizbullah troops along the Syrian border with Israel would be crossing a "red line," hinting that it would be willing to take military action if needed. Tzuriel warned of a "regional conflagration."

He said Russia could end up playing a positive role, because it wants to stabilize Syria. He said the Russians realize that Iran could create friction not only with Israel, but also with the Sunni majority in the region.

"I think there is a good chance that it will limit and restrain Iran, Hizbullah and the Shiite militias," he said.

But that is far from clear. Netanyahu last month flew to Russia to discuss Syria with President Vladimir Putin, but apparently returned home emptyhanded. Israeli media last week said Russia had rejected an Israeli request to keep the Shiite forces at least 60 kilometers (40 miles) from the border. Neither side has commented on the reports.

Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz recently claimed at a security conference that Iran and Syria are working on an agreement that could bring an Iranian naval base, airport or army bases to Israel's doorstep, a major boost for Hiizbullah.

"The Iranians may bring different kinds of missiles to Syria, and a large and well-equipped force of Shiite militias may settle there, including tens of thousands of Afghans, Pakistanis, Iraqis and Syrians whose goal is to threaten and battle Israel," Katz said. "Hizbullah will train and command the Shiite militias."

Israel has attempted to stay on the sidelines throughout the Syrian war. But it has admitted to carrying out dozens of airstrikes on what are believed to be shipments of "game changing" weapons, such as guided missiles or anti-aircraft systems, bound for Hizbullah. Syria accused Israel of carrying out a recent airstrike against a Syrian military facility, possibly linked to either missile production or chemical weapons.

Hayman said last week's drill was only focused on Lebanon, and that Israel would try to keep any future fighting from spreading beyond Lebanon.

After years of fighting in Syria, Hizbullah does not appear to be in a rush to battle Israel. The group has lost an estimated 1,500 fighters in Syria and is also suffering from low morale and financial pressure. But as it withdraws from Syria, it is expected to look south, to its main nemesis.

"Hizbullah now has a force similar to those of a conventional army without losing its experience in guerrilla warfare," said Qassim Qassir, a Lebanese expert on Hizbullah. "Hizbullah today is stronger than before and this is what made Israel carry out this drill to show their force."

Comments 24
Thumb Mystic 20 September 2017, 11:04

How many dead can Israel endure?
Just in 2006 they were mostly in panic with sirens sounding all over the place.

Next time will not be in your imagination IDF, you can't prepare for what to come.

Thumb jaafar.ibn.iblees 20 September 2017, 12:48

What was in the imagination of those two dead shia iranian terrorists in your avatar? Did they prepare for what to come?

Thumb s.o.s 20 September 2017, 14:27

That's what happens to rocket men! Boooom

Thumb Mystic 20 September 2017, 17:14

What did these Israelis believe?
That they are safe in their armored vehicles?

The difference between Hezbollah and Israel zionists, is that hezb dies with happiness, and Jews fear death just like their Salafi brethren travelling in buses to escape war.

Thumb thepatriot 20 September 2017, 19:04

Mastica... you feel pride in not fearing death...
The reason they do not fear death is because they are brainwashed to believe that 357 virgins will open up the gates of paradise to them... it is exactly the same BS that isis fighters believe in... that their cause is greater, and that the great prize awaits in Valhalla... stupidity with no limits... Israelis might be thugs, but they have a culture of life... not death... like us.

Thumb Mystic 20 September 2017, 20:09

So you speak on behalf of Israel now?

You know what, actually you did a favor by raging a war in Syria on behalf of the Salafis and Israel.
By starting a revolution against Assad, you gave Hezbollah free training to kill salafis.

You poured money into the Salafi militias, and the Resistance received training by killing them.
Now the Resistance is 10 times stronger, and ready for any war.

The War in Syria is the worst war to ever happen in the region, if we can endure a war in Syria and win, then surely we can do the same against Israel.

Thumb Elemental 20 September 2017, 21:10

Lol @ Movatenritardo^ How about being an adult and not make daily fake accounts? Doesn't exactly make you significant.

Thumb warrior 21 September 2017, 05:09

" if we can endure a war in Syria and win, then surely we can do the same against Israel."

ROFL!!! Did you talk to Lavrov lately?

Thumb thepatriot 21 September 2017, 23:00

*** yes sorry s.os... i meant like "you" ;)

We obviously have no culture of death :)

Thumb s.o.s 20 September 2017, 22:48

lol "Nothing - Nill - Nada - Zilch." it's so Texassy :) WB 1Ano!

Thumb galaxy 20 September 2017, 12:02

lol @ the heretic who is in the know:) Thank your lucky star last time they left you a couple of buildings standing up.

Thumb Mystic 20 September 2017, 17:11

This is a report from Israel.
Naharnet publish Israeli reports.

What is this propaganda? Hezbollah lost fighters in Syria, but in the meantime they gained battle expertise whilst the IDF holds drills in fake villages and sunbathes in Tel Aviv.
Take your propaganda to Israel Naharnet

"After years of fighting in Syria, Hizbullah does not appear to be in a rush to battle Israel. The group has lost an estimated 1,500 fighters in Syria and is also suffering from low morale and financial pressure. But as it withdraws from Syria, it is expected to look south, to its main nemesis."

Thumb Mystic 20 September 2017, 17:57

Other day? I wrote today that Israel were in panic during the 2006 war.
Since then they have been sunbathing and making simulator military drills, whilst the Resistance gained battle expertise and knowledge in Syria.

The coward zionist israel still have nightmares about this.

Thumb Elemental 20 September 2017, 20:21

You're both like a married couple lol.

Thumb barrymore 20 September 2017, 18:19

"Israel Sets Sights on Hizbullah"
yeah yeah yeah
They had nassrallah spotted when he visited damascus two weeks ago and they let him go.

Thumb ex-fpm 20 September 2017, 19:05

so why was @un52 comment deleted?

Thumb ado.australia 20 September 2017, 19:08

Israel failed with the free syrian army... didn't work, now turn and deflect to next target and distract for next election! Bibi Netenyhau actually sided with Al Quaid and no one cares! Credit where credit is due. No one does it better then these people.

Thumb s.o.s 20 September 2017, 19:35

you smoke premium quality kush, good for you. in other words, keep hallucinating!

Thumb Elemental 20 September 2017, 21:08

Another fake account Movatenritardo?^

Thumb Elemental 20 September 2017, 20:17

Both are illegally occupying land that's not theirs, yet they are in bed together. Both equal in drama, lies and manipulation.

Thumb s.o.s 20 September 2017, 20:20

L M N tal, don't go further, these mitwelians build many houses illegally on land owned by my family for centuries in Nabatiye. The filth are untouchable like Israel. They have the same sick mentalities.

Thumb Elemental 20 September 2017, 20:23

Where Their "dahiyeh" is, was once olive trees and orange trees, land owned by mine as well, so I totally get it. Now it's just a cesspool of their illegal activities and illegal occupation.

Thumb shab 20 September 2017, 21:29

loool @ "that hezb dies with happiness"

Thumb janoubi 21 September 2017, 10:41

i pray they are always 'happy'.