Analyst: Hezbollah Exploiting Power Vacuum in Syria to Escalate Violence on Israeli Border

Hezbollah has been taking taking advantage of the power vacuum in Syria to try and create a “deterrent balance” against Israel, according to an analysis written by Avi Issacharoff and published Monday in The Times of Israel.

Hezbollah has been using Druze, Palestinians and, of course, Assad’s own troops to strike at Israeli targets. For more than a year, this has been one front where Hezbollah has been trying to take advantage of the power vacuum in the Syrian area in order to create a deterrent balance against Israel.

Even after the reported Israeli weekend attack on targets in the Qalamun Mountains, it seemed that Hezbollah would try to mount a limited response, not one that might lead to a large-scale, violent confrontation. Hezbollah has no interest in a conflict of that kind, but it wants to make it clear to Israel that there is a price to pay for what it views as crossing red lines.

Media outlets identified with Hezbollah, such as Al Mayadeen, claimed there was a further Israeli attack on Sunday night. But it seems that the source of those explosions in the hot Qalamun sector was the intensifying battles between Hezbollah and the Syrian army against Islamic State and Al-Nusra Front. While Hezbollah and the Syrian army had succeeded in cleansing the mountain strip of the radical Sunni troops in the past, Islamic State forces has managed to retake various territories in the area.

Recent airstrikes attributed to Israel have targeted materiel in Syria intended for Hezbollah, as Iran has been looking to strengthen its proxy. In addition to airstrikes this past week, in January Israel struck a convoy on the Syrian Golan Heights, killing top Hezbollah and Iranian military personnel.

Hezbollah expert Philip Smyth wrote in Foreign Policy in January that Hezbollah’s stepped-up activity in the Golan was part of Iran’s effort to “encircle” Israel. An analysis written shortly afterward by Jonathan Spyer of the Rubin Center and Benjamin Weinthal of Foundation for Defense of Democracies noted that Iran’s continued efforts to attack Israel and destabilize the region “should debunk any idea that its President Hassan Rouhani is a moderate leader within the Middle East.”

[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Flickr ]