Analysis: Hezbollah not looking to join Hamas in battle

For the Shi'ite movement, the sectarian conflict and payback for abandoning its alliance with Syrian President Bashar Assad trumps any other considerations now.

August 25, 2014 04:24
2 minute read.
Hassan Nasrallah

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

No one has yet taken responsibility for rockets fired at Israel from Lebanon and Syria, though it appears at this point that Hezbollah is not looking to join Hamas in the battle against the Jewish state.

If Hamas were a fellow Shi’ite movement like Hezbollah, and also closely connected ideologically with Iran, we would have expected that Hezbollah would have gone all out to defend Hamas in Gaza by now.

However, this is not the case, and the sectarian conflict and payback for abandoning its alliance with Syrian President Bashar Assad trumps any other considerations now.

Moreover, the group’s deep involvement in defending Iranian interests in the region, especially in Syria, leaves it with little desire to open up another front at the moment.

“Hezbollah enjoys looking at what is happening to Hamas, the traitors who betrayed Assad, their host and protector for more than 20 years, by not supporting him in his struggle against the Sunni jihadists,” Mordechai Kedar, director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation) and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, told The Jerusalem Post.

“This is the reason for not taking any step to support Hamas – not even one missile,” said Kedar.

However, he added that the situation could change “only by an Iranian directive, which would come after Hamas repents.”

However, it is possible that Hezbollah could have launched the attack, not only to demonstrate that its “resistance” to Israel is real – and not only words – but also to test Israeli deterrence.

The Shi’ite organization is closely watching how Israel has responded to Hamas, failing to deter the Sunni group even after it has fired thousands of rockets at Israel.

So, the group may reason, “what can we expect Israel to do after a mere half dozen rockets?”

“There’s always the strong possibility it could have been Hezbollah or other elements aligned with them,” Phillip Smyth, a researcher specializing in Shiite Islamist groups at University of Maryland’s Laboratory for Computational Cultural Dynamics, told the Post.

It is interesting, noted Smyth, how attacks occurred both emanating from Syria, bordering the Golan Heights, and southern Lebanon.

“Hezbollah and its Shia allies operating in Syria have hinted that they have access to the Golan” in order to open up another front against Israel, he said.

“This may have been a message that their capabilities against Israel remain, despite being heavily invested in Syria,” asserted Smyth.

Furthermore, if Hezbollah was responsible for the attacks, it could be an “additional signal to Hamas, which has very openly re-entered Iran’s orbit.”

However, said Smyth, if Hezbollah really had wanted to strongly support Hamas, it could have thrown much more at Israel, as it did during the Lebanon war in 2006.

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