Israeli soldiers stand atop tanks in the Israeli Golan Heights, close to Israel's frontier with Syria November 22, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
Israel’s security cabinet has convened several times in recent days, holding “extremely significant” meetings to discuss developments on the northern border and Iran’s presence in Syria.
According to a report by Channel 10, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held telephone conversations with world leaders and warned them of the danger posed by Iran establishing itself in Lebanon and Syria through its proxies Hezbollah and other Shi’ite militias.
The report said the discussions also focused on the “day after” the Syrian civil war ends with President Bashar Assad as victor and his military regaining control over the country.
“Due to limitations imposed by the military censor, I can’t give the full information,” Channel 10 diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid tweeted.
“But after more than a decade of covering the security cabinet, I can judge that the discussions over the last few days about the northern front were extremely significant.”
Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over the growing Iranian presence on its borders and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah from Tehran to Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are red lines for Israel.
Ravid referred to comments made by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman
in October, when he warned that the next conflict in the North will not be confined to one front but will involve conflicts with both Syria and Lebanon.
Addressing soldiers during a celebratory event marking Sukkot in IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, Liberman said the next campaign will immediately become a battle on two fronts.
“There is no more value in one sector, and this is our basic premise,” he said. “We are supposed to prepare for every possible scenario, and the new reality also prepares new challenges for us. If we once talked about the Lebanese sector, then there is no more such a sector. There is a northern sector in every development.”
Last week, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot warned that the influence of the Iranian umbrella
is a multidimensional threat that is the IDF’s biggest challenge.
The first threat, he said, is Iran’s desire for nuclear weapons, and the second is the “tremendous effort” of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force to create a Shi’ite crescent from Iran to Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and even the Gaza Strip.
There are some 10,000 Shi’ite militia fighters and another 80,000 Hezbollah fighters in Syria supported by Iran, which gives the Lebanese terrorist group $700 million per year and provides another $100m. to other Shi’ite militias, Eisenkot said.
Hezbollah has lost over 2,000 fighters in Syria, but it has gained a tremendous amount of battlefield experience, and its success in helping Assad regain control over Syria has increased its confidence, he said.
After seven years of deadly civil war that has involved various countries and dozens of rebel and jihadist group, Assad has been regaining more territory with the help of Russian airpower and Iranian-backed foot soldiers. He now controls more than 70% of the country, including the Syrian Golan, which was retaken from rebels in late December.
While Eisenkot said the relationship between the Israeli and Russian militaries has grown over the past two years due to Moscow’s involvement in the war-torn country, Netanyahu has publicly criticized a US-Russian cease-fire deal in Syria, saying it does not include any provisions to stop Iranian expansion in the area.
Russia, which views Iran as a key player in resolving the crisis in Syria and has repeatedly emphasized the importance of the role that the Islamic Republic plays there, rejected a request from Jerusalem for a 60-km. buffer zone between the Golan Heights and any Iranian-backed militias in Syria, only agreeing to make sure that no Shi’ite fighter comes closer than 10 km. to 15 km. from Israel.