Over the past month, together with its extensive efforts to deal with the coronavirus, Hezbollah, with help from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, has continued its efforts to consolidate its infrastructure in Syria, especially in the Golan Heights, in order to create another front against Israel, alongside Lebanon. This activity joins Hezbollah’s efforts to address the internal problems in Lebanon, which is beset by an economic, political, and healthcare crisis. Hezbollah is taking measures to deal with the coronavirus, but in a way designed to establish its status and legitimacy among the public as a defender of Lebanon. These priorities are also reflected in the recent speeches by Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah. His speech on May 4, 2020, which was devoted entirely to the internal crisis in Lebanon, attempted to highlight Hezbollah’s constructive role, and to counter domestic criticism of the organization.Yet even in the course of its internal campaign in Lebanon, Hezbollah has not abandoned its efforts to obtain advanced weaponry and consolidate its operational infrastructure in Syria, mainly by fostering its local proxies in the Golan Heights. Hezbollah and Iran are persisting in their efforts to transfer strategic arms from Iran to Syria and from there to Lebanon, including components for the precision-guided missile project. To this end, Hezbollah utilizes its influence in the Lebanese political system to preserve its option of both the land route from Syria to Lebanon and its access to overseas flights landing at Beirut Airport. Inter alia, it has been reported that the medical teams at the airport treating Lebanese residents returning from abroad (Hezbollah was among the leaders in the mission to fly them back to Lebanon) are affiliated with the Islamic Health Organization, which belongs to Hezbollah.
Hezbollah’s attempts to build up its forces and consolidate its presence in the Golan Heights are a source of concern for Israel. The organization’s tenacity in building its own local infrastructure close to the border with Israel in the Golan Heights area is what underlay the grave warning published in Arabic on April 10 by the IDF spokesman, following a visit by the commander of the Syrian army 1st Corps, accompanied by a senior Hezbollah commander, to positions in the area used by Hezbollah. The IDF spokesman made it clear that Israel would not allow the continuation of such activity, which “aims at creating a terrorist structure against Israel.” In tandem, warnings were also conveyed to Israel from the Lebanese side, including by elements of the new Hezbollah-sponsored government. On April 19 Lebanon’s Minister of Foreign Affairs said that Lebanon was in a state of war with Israel, which penetrates its airspace, and that a complaint about Israel’s actions would be registered at the UN Security Council. This statement followed a warning by the Lebanese Prime Minister in his meeting with UNIFIL on April 8 that Lebanon would be hard-pressed to refrain from responding if Israel continues its attacks in Syria using Lebanese airspace. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
A Nameless War and an Unsolved Dilemma
Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen
Israel Hayom, May 10, 2020
This month, Israeli discourse has turned to the 20th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from the security zone in Southern Lebanon. Tens of thousands of combat soldiers have joined a recently-opened Facebook group that provides a platform for the generation that fought there.
A new documentary series from public broadcaster Kan titled A War Without a Name is another contribution to the narrative of the distress of the war in the security zone. The generation of fighters who served there doubtless have a personal need to share, but questions such as what was there, why we were fighting, or how we got to the point where we were forced to withdraw all play a role in outlining the complex created due to years of fighting a battle that was not trying win anything. All this is taking another look at the foundations of Israel’s perception of security, and one that has current relevance.
Twenty years on, we enjoy the advantage of hindsight. But when I take a look at myself, it’s important to mention what I saw at the time. As a combat officer, I enjoyed the operations in Lebanon. In the spring and summer of 1988, I was serving as a battalion commander in the security zone. As commander of the 7th Brigade and deputy commander of the 36th Division from 1993-1997, I followed the activity of the army units in south Lebanon from up close, and I have to admit that back then, I did not ask any deep questions about the underlying concept behind our fighting in the zone.
There was certainly reason to wonder how, despite the changes in Hezbollah’s tactics – especially after Operation Accountability (1993) – the IDF deployment remained the same as it was when we first went into the security zone, using the same outposts and the same array of forces.
I certainly didn’t think about the lack of a strategic purpose. The need to learn how to operate and adapt anew to Hezbollah’s tactics presented a big enough challenge. In contrast to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which saw a crisis of faith between the topmost command echelon and the troops on the ground, throughout our years in the security zone, the top ranks of the IDF’s Northern Command were involved in every aspect of what was taking place there and had the trust of the soldiers doing the fighting. Even the 1997 helicopter disaster didn’t cause any visible lack of faith in the upper ranks.
… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Israel’s Strategy in Syria is Less Coherent than It Seems
Jerusalem Post, May 8, 2020
A significant uptick in Israeli action against Iranian targets in Syria has taken place in recent weeks, according to regional and international media.
In the latest moves, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 14 Iranian and Iraqi fighters were killed on Tuesday in an Israeli raid on positions close to the town of al-Mayadin, in southeast Syria. This report followed close behind claims in official Syrian media of an Israeli missile attack on a research center and a military barracks in Aleppo province on Monday. SOHR also identified Israel as responsible for explosions at an ammunition depot controlled by the Lebanese Hezbollah movement near Homs city in the west of the country on the same day.
The previous week, strikes took place against militia targets in Quneitra, close to the border with the Golan, and against Iranian targets close to Damascus and to Palmyra, in southwest Syria.
While Israeli spokesmen tend to avoid commenting on specific actions, the overall goal of the campaign has been made crystal clear by a number of officials. The stated Israeli intention is, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it back in June 2018: “Iran needs to leave Syria – all of Syria.” More recently, this objective has been reiterated by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett. In an interview on Monday, he said that “Iran has nothing to do in Syria… and we won’t stop before they leave Syria.”
The apparent increase in Israeli airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria has happened on Bennett’s watch. The defense minister seems to have identified the expulsion of Iran from Syria as a clear and achievable goal. In February, he told The Jerusalem Post that his objective was to remove Iran from Syria within 12 months.
Bennett has also made clear his calculus as to why he is confident that Israel will succeed in achieving this goal – namely, that while for Israel the issue is a cardinal security interest, for Iran, Syria is only of secondary importance.
As a result, the defense minister appears confident that Israel will, by use of its air power, be able to raise the price for the Iranian project in Syria to a level that the Iranians will no longer be willing to pay. Once this point is reached, Iran will recalculate and withdraw. As he expressed it this week, “We are determined, more determined, and I will tell you why: For Iran, Syria is an adventure 1,000 miles from home, but for us it is life.”
In recent days, a variety of media outlets have quoted unnamed Israeli officials identifying evidence that this strategy is bearing fruit, and that Iran has begun to reduce its presence in Syria as a result of the Israeli raids. As one unnamed source told the Walla website, ‘“For the first time since Iran entered Syria, it is reducing its forces there and evacuating bases.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Hezbollah-Law: Behind Germany’s Long-Awaited Ban of the Terrorist Organization
Yossi Lempkowicz; Orit Arfa
European Jewish Press, May 10, 2020
On April 30, Germany officially banned all Hezbollah activities in Germany. In a dramatic demonstration of its execution, authorities raided four mosques believed to have ties to the Lebanese terror group.
Critics of Germany’s reluctance to make a distinction between the political and military wing of Hezbollah, such as the German Jewish community and the Israeli government, praised it as a long-overdue policy. Others called it a partial step. “Germany has taken a major step, and we’re glad they’ve done so,” U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell told JNS. Along with his embassy staff, he has made blacklisting Hezbollah a top priority. The U.S. State Department designated Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has long pushed for Germany to outlaw the group.
The road to banning Hezbollah
The move to ban the Iranian-backed Shi’ite terror group was over a decade-long process in the famously bureaucratic Germany. The first move to sanction the organization came in 2008, when Germany restricted Hezbollah’s al-Manar satellite station. In 2014, the country banned an alleged charity that was a front for the Martyrs Organization of Hezbollah and the following year, Germany’s Supreme Court ruled that Hezbollah was an organization that “disrupted global peace.” Despite this, the Germany government and its major political parties seemed to delay a full ban on the terror group.
At a Bundestag debate last June led by the right-wing Alternative for Deutschland (AfD), which introduced a motion to ban Hezbollah’s political arm, German lawmakers stated collective disdain for Hezbollah’s genocidal, anti-Semitic aims but argued the ban might cause instability in Lebanon (where Hezbollah is a central political player) or that it should be a pan-European initiative. The E.U. only recognizes Hezbollah’s so-called “military wing” as a terror organization. Yet other European and E.U. countries, such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, list the entire organization as a terror group.
However, the push to outlaw began to gain momentum in December 2019, when the ruling coalition parties, the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Socialist Union and the Socialist Democrats, as well as the Free Democrats (FdP) passed their own non-binding resolution calling on the government to ban Hezbollah’s activities. “It’s good that, following the clear decision of the joint motion in the Bundestag in December 2019, the Federal Ministry of the Interior has finally become active and brought about the ban on activity,” said MP Strasser, who said he and his party, the Free Democrats (FDP) spearheaded and pushed the motion. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK– Ed.]
For Further Reference:
Syrian Army Says Israeli Jets Hit Research Center, Military Outposts in Aleppo Province:Reuters and Jack Khoury, Haaretz, May 5, 2020 — Syrian air defenses thwarted an Israeli missile attack on a research center and a military base in the northern province of Aleppo, state media said on Monday in the fifth such strikes in two weeks on suspected Iranian targets.