How Will Hezbollah's Role in Syrian Civil War Affect Israel?

Lebanese militia could be overextended in Syria, but it is also getting younger fighters who are gaining more combat experience.

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Haaretz
Lebanese pro-Syrian government protesters holding up portraits of Syrian President Bashar Assad with his father, Hafez Assad, in Sidon, Lebanon, on May 11.
Lebanese pro-Syrian government protesters holding up portraits of Syrian President Bashar Assad with his father, Hafez Assad, in Sidon, Lebanon, on May 11.Credit: AP
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Haaretz

What impact will Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian civil war have on a possible future conflict between Hezbollah and the Israeli army? The New York Times interviewed analysts and other sources and put forth several possibilities.

First the bad news for Israel: It could mean that Hezbollah militants will be more experienced. "More than a year of continuous military engagement has allowed a new generation of fighters to gain battlefield experience," the Times reported, adding that Hezbollah has recruited many additional fighters and established accelerated training programs, according to residents of communities where Hezbollah is dominant.

It could also mean that the militants will now skew more to the young and eager demographic.

Though Hezbollah used to rely on older men who had gone through years of military training, it is now training younger militants. One 21-year-old man from south Lebanon who underwent the first stage of a training program with Hezbollah said there were about 70 people in his group, some of them teenagers. "The younger you are, the more excited you are to join the battles," he told the Times.

But all this focus on fellow Arabs could mean Hezbollah is left with fewer resources with which to fight Israel.

Hezbollah is overextended in Syria and is in a weaker position against Israel, Ely Karmon, a senior researcher at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Israel, told the Times. In addition, every man killed in Syria gives Hezbollah one more family to support.

This is the first time Hezbollah has dedicated so many resources to fighting other Arabs and Muslims instead of Israel, a change that has "diluted the resources that used to go exclusively to facing Israel, exacerbated sectarian divisions in the region, and alienated large segments of the majority Sunni population who once embraced Hezbollah as a liberation force," the article said.

Some Sunnis now see the "party of God" – the meaning of Hezbollah in Arabic -- as outright diabolical, openly calling the Lebanese militia "the party of Satan," the Times said. Hezbollah's political opponents have said its role in Syria endangers Lebanon, and the extremist Sunni group Abdullah Azzam Brigades has dared Hezbollah to "fire one bullet at occupied Palestine and claim responsibility."

Hisham Jabber, a retired brigadier general in the Lebanes army, estimated that a few hundered Hezbollah militants have been killed in Syria but said the casualties have not significantly weakened its ability to fight, the report said.

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