Israel Disputes Western View That Syrian Civil War Has Swung Assad's Way

Senior Israeli security official says that Hezbollah's entry into fighting has backfired badly.

Gili Cohen
Amos Harel
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Gili Cohen
Amos Harel

Israel does not share Western intelligence assessments that the victory of the Assad regime in Qusayr was a turning point in its favor in the Syrian civil war, a senior security official told Haaretz on Wednesday.

The source said President Bashar Assad cannot swing the balance to his side in the conflict since he and the rebels have reached a stalemate, and neither side has the military strength to prevail.

A Syrian human rights group said Wednesday the number of people killed in the civil war is now more than 100,000.

Officials in the defense establishment say Hezbollah is suffering the greatest slump in its history and its entanglement in the war in Syria is causing it grave damage. This harm is even greater than that incurred in the Second Lebanon War, which followed Hezbollah's abduction of Israeli reserve soldiers in 2006.

Although Hezbollah helped Assad's troops win the battle in Qusayr, more than 600 of its soldiers were killed while over 600 were wounded. The casualty rate is especially high considering Hezbollah has less than 20,000 fighters.

The overall number of fatalities Hezbollah suffered in the fighting in Syria so far appears to exceed 500 - close to the number of dead it counted in the 2006 war.

Hezbollah now faces harsh criticism in Lebanon for its involvement in the war in Syria and must deal with daily violent attacks in Shi'ite villages and neighborhoods. The rocket fire about a month ago at Dahiya, its stronghold neighborhood in south Beirut, drew considerable attention, but so did many incidents of firing on Shi'ite villages in the Lebanon Valley, close to the Syrian border.

The source said the assessments that Assad has changed the course of the civil war are groundless.

"Those claims reflect a lack of historic understanding," he said. "The era of a united Syria under Assad's rule is over. What remains is two million Alawites who can hold onto the Damascus area and the Alawite region in the northwest of Syria in the meantime. They cannot rule the rest of the communities and regions in the country anymore. That's over," he said.

"The problem of the opposition organizations is that they too are divided into more than 100 groups and factions. From Israel's point of view, this mutual paralysis is not necessarily that bad, because the stronger rebel factions are radical Muslim organizations whose rule in Syria could be worse even than the current state of affairs," the source said.

An image of Syria's President Bashar Assad is seen on a car's windscreen as Hezbollah supporters celebrate, after the Syrian army took control of Qusair from rebel fighters.Credit: Reuters

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