Analysis: Hezbollah 'revenge' for Kuntar likely done; ISIS could be next northern threat

According to assessments within the Israeli defense establishment, it would make little sense for Hezbollah to strike again.

January 6, 2016 21:23
1 minute read.
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IDF soldiers stand atop tanks in the Golan Heights near Israel's border with Syria.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Chances are good that Hezbollah will walk away from its mini-escalation with Israel, following the alleged IAF strike on terrorist Samir Kuntar in the outskirts of Damascus, satisfied that it made good on its threat to respond, while ensuring that its minor border attack did not open up a new front against it.

According to assessments within the Israeli defense establishment, it would make little sense for Hezbollah to strike again, and risk a major clash with Israel over Kuntar, a terrorist operative who was working for Iran, not Hezbollah, and who held no strategic value for the Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist organization.

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Hezbollah remains heavily involved in the Syrian civil war, in which a third of its fighting forces have been injured or killed in action.

Iran, which underwrites Hezbollah and nourishes it with weapons, expects it to focus on its current goals – to save the Assad regime, and protect its Lebanese home turf from Sunni jihadist organizations – rather than risk conflict with Israel that would expose it to massive IDF firepower and shift the balance of power in Syria in favor of Sunni rebel organizations.

Hezbollah, which has more surface to surface rockets and missiles than most states in the world, remains Israel’s most formidable threat in the immediate region. But weaker, radical Sunni organizations are more likely to try and attack from the north first.

Emerging threats to watch are the heavily armed, Islamic State-affiliated Yarmuk Martyrs Brigade (Shuhada al-Yarmuk), a group right on the border with the Golan Heights, which may choose to (unwisely) follow an Islamic State order to attack Israel in the future.

Al-Qaida’s Nusra Front, which is locked in a war with the Yarmuk Martyrs Brigade, is also not a particularly stable entity, and could, for a variety of reasons, seek to turn its guns, bombs and antitank missiles on Israeli targets on the Golan.

Although these groups are fighting each other, as well as the Assad regime and Hezbollah, it is the radical Sunni actors, consolidating their presence on the Golan border, that are more likely to strike at Israel first, and the IDF is deep in preparations for such a scenario.

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