A senior Israeli defense official said that the IDF is cautiously optimistic about making it through the coming year without having to conduct major combat operations, unless a preemptive strike against the Lebanon-based Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah becomes necessary, Defense News reported on Monday.
“The probability for war in 2017, generally speaking, is low,” the official said, but with a caveat: “Due to the dynamic of escalation, we might find ourselves in [one].”
The official told Defense News that Israel needs to calculate its moves very carefully, as it is facing threats from Hezbollah in the north, Hamas in the south and the Palestinian Authority in the center, as well as from far beyond its borders — the regime in Tehran.
The official explained that each of these fronts is volatile, and require close attention.
He said that though the most likely source of instability will come from the PA in the West Bank, and that the most easily ignitable conflict is with Hamas in Gaza, the strongest force Israel faces is Iranian proxy Hezbollah, which has been fighting in Syria on behalf of President Bashar Assad.
He said that this was the case despite Hezbollah’s having suffered mass casualties during the Syrian civil war, which began in 2011. He estimated that even after losing some 1,700 fighters in battle — and having another 6,000 or so wounded — the organization has approximately 8,000 personnel in Syria today. Nor, he said, has Hezbollah stopped its military build-up against Israel.
“We don’t want to wait for the first day of the war [before taking action], he said, and since Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah speaks almost every week about the day they will conquer Israel…why wait? Why give him a feeling of being strong enough?”
The official concluded that Israel’s main worry was what will happen when Russia and other states leave Syria, leaving the stage open for Iran and Hezbollah to grow more confident and powerful.
That, he said, “will not be a good end to this story.”
As The Algemeiner reported on Sunday, Hezbollah has flatly rejected the Moscow-Ankara-brokered Syria ceasefire deal — which was approved unanimously by the UN Security Council on Saturday — over Turkey’s insistence that all foreign fighters exit the war-torn country, even before peace talks begin between Assad and rebel forces.
The last time Israel went to war against Hezbollah was in the summer of 2006. During an event last year marking the 10th anniversary of the 34-day Second War in Lebanon, IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan said that in the next confrontation Hezbollah will have four times the amount of explosive warheads with which to strike the greater Tel Aviv metropolitan area.
He added, however, “We’re the country best equipped to deal with emergency scenarios …The Home Front Command has prepared directives for all authoritative bodies in Israel, and we just need to make sure that everyone does his job seriously and as planned. Israel has an early warning system unparalleled in the world that lets civilians know what to do.”