Elite Hezbollah fighters are leading the Syrian government’s battle against
rebels in the country’s most violent regions, a senior IDF commander said on
“We must understand that this is not a war in Syria where
Syrians are fighting against Syrians anymore,” Maj.-Gen. Noam Tibon, commander
of the IDF Northern Corps, said at The Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference in
Herzliya. Hezbollah, he said, is the “elite force today fighting against the
rebels in Syria.”
Tibon’s speech expanded upon comments Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu made on Sunday, when he told NBC’s Meet the Press that Syria
is essentially a protectorate of Iran.
The general appeared to challenge
reports that Hezbollah’s role may be declining in Syria. The Times of London
reported earlier this month that Hezbollah had reduced its presence in Syria
from 10,000 fighters to about 3,500. Tibon did not address the reported
numerical decline in Hezbollah forces, instead saying that the Shi’ite group is
“fighting in the most dangerous and tough areas in Syria and actually leading
Tibon reiterated that Israel “is not involved in the war”
and is not taking a side. But he said the IDF would not allow the presence of
armed Islamic groups on the border of the Golan Heights or the smuggling of
weapons to Hezbollah.
“On these two points, we will do whatever we can to
prevent it,” he said. He did not discuss a report in the Kuwaiti newspaper
this week that Israel bombed an arms shipment allegedly bound for
Tibon said Hezbollah is also fighting a sectarian war in
Lebanon and preparing for a possible conflict with Israel. Hezbollah has more
than 100,000 rockets aimed at Israel, which represents a new kind of terrorism
facing the Jewish state, he said.
“All those 100,000 rockets are only for
one purpose: to shut down the country,” he said. “People will be afraid to go to
work, people will not go to school, tourists will not come,” he added,
explaining Hezbollah’s goal.
Tibon’s assessment of Hezbollah and the war
in Syria was part of a wider briefing he provided about threats facing Israel,
and the state of the Middle East.
While the revolutions of the Arab
Spring have yielded mixed results across the Middle East, Tibon argued that the
ability of a popular uprising to bring down a government sent a powerful
“I think that all the leaders in the Arab countries today are
very, very sensitive to the voice of the people,” he said. “It’s not a
democracy. But the people in all the Arab countries today have much more power
[over] what’s going on in their states, from Iran to Egypt.”