Once again in the last weeks we have seen reports of Israeli jet fighters attacking a Hezbollah convoy west of Damascus. These ongoing attacks of Hezbollah fighters, leaders and convoys are part of an escalation between Israel and Hezbollah that could soon lead to open confrontation. There are three factors that encourage Israel to seriously consider such a move.
The first is related to the presence of Hezbollah in Syria, and its proximity to the Golan Heights. According to many experts Hezbollah’s financial and human resources were seriously drained and it’s popularity on the decline within Lebanon and abroad. This could be an opportunity for Israel to attack Hezbollah directly after the war in Syria.
The second factor that would be of concern to Israel is the experience that Hezbollah’s fighters have gained in Syria. Cooperation with various militias and the development of new fighting techniques and tactics from having a wide network inside Syria and across the region could see Hezbollah implement them against Israel as their attention turns back to their traditional foe.
The third factor relates to the use of new technology and techniques in spying that Hezbollah has been using. There have been multiple incidents of drones crossing into Israeli air space and evading Israeli defenses taking pictures and collecting intelligence on Israeli troops and installations. This is a new threat to Israel and would be of great concern.
With these indicators suggesting an increasing probability of a confrontation, it begs the question as to what Hezbollah has prepared. We know that Hezbollah has new technology and techniques, but perhaps they are also thinking that offense is the best form of defense. Further, they may consider that surprise would be to their advantage, which means we could see a confrontation on Israeli soil.
Hezbollah would also be preparing itself for a solution to the crisis in Syria where they are no longer able to use it as a logistic, political and financial base, as they have in the past. The same would also apply to Iran, which is working to keep deals with the international community.
The result of this is that Hezbollah will not have the same level of backing as it has in the past. We are seeing a longer term change of Hezbollah’s political strategy as they have managed to facilitate the deal that saw their ally General Michael Aoun become the president of Lebanon, which may also see them address their illegal status of being a state within a state.
Despite all of these indicators, the key factor of whether we see a confrontation between Hezbollah and Israel or a regional settlement is likely to be determined by the new protagonist in the region, in Russia.
Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh