Hezbollah’s intense involvement in Syria and the near-collapse of the Syrian army means that, strategically speaking, Israel’s position along the northern border may be better than ever, the Israel Defense Forces’ deputy chief of staff said on Monday.
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Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, whose previous post was Northern Command commander, was addressing a Tel Aviv conference held by Tzevet, the IDF’s veterans association, to mark 30 years since the military’s establishment of the security zone in southern Lebanon.
According to Golan, there is no substantive difference now between Syria and Lebanon. “Today, more than ever, we are seeing a unified northern theater. Hezbollah is positioned along the Lebanese border but is very active in Syria, while in Lebanon there are more than a million Syrian refugees.”
Golan added that the security situation in the north still contains quite a few risks, but is still a relatively comfortable situation for Israel. Because Hezbollah has invested thousands of fighters in Lebanon, while there isn’t much left of the Syrian army to speak of, “From a strategic perspective, our situation in the northern arena may be better than ever,” he said.
The defense establishment believes Hezbollah has lost at least 80 fighters in the current battle in Syria’s Qalamoun Mountains region, and there are estimates that some 1,000 of its fighters have been killed during the civil war. “This is not a good time for Hezbollah, for [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, or for Iran in Syria,” a security source said.
“It would be wonderful if this situation were stable, but it’s not,” Golan stressed, adding that while Hezbollah has the potential that no other terror group has ever had, it is not the Egyptian or Syrian armies during the Yom Kippur War. Golan noted that global jihad organizations are active along the northern border but are not currently targeting Israel, although that could change.
“Right now, we can allow ourselves to not get involved, but there’s worrisome potential for the future,” the deputy chief of staff concluded.