An Israeli air raid on a depot controlled by the Syrian regime two weeks ago hit a supply of chemical weapons being transferred to the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah, a spokesperson for a Syrian opposition group said Sunday.
Fahed al-Masri of the National Salvation Front told Israel’s Army Radio that planes had struck a chemical weapons convoy intended for Hezbollah. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman obliquely suggested last week that Israel was responsible for the strike and that the target had been Hezbollah-bound chemical weapons; other Israeli leaders have made it clear in public statements and conversations with foreign leaders that they will act to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring “game-changing” weapons or strengthening its positions on Israel’s borders.
Hezbollah reportedly has an arsenal of 130,000 rockets, more than the combined total of all 27 non-U.S. NATO member states.
According to a July report published by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Israeli officials believe that any future war with Hezbollah has the potential to cause “thousands of civilian deaths” in Israel. Hezbollah has, among other things, threatened to attack ammonium tanks in Haifa, which could kill tens of thousands of people.
The think tank’s vice president for research, Jonathan Schanzer, explained that Hezbollah’s widely-reported tactic of hiding military assets in civilian areas would also lead to mass casualties. Reports emerged two years ago that Hezbollah was offering reduced-price housing to Shi’ite families who allowed the terrorist group to store rocket launchers in their homes. An Israeli defense official told The New York Times in May 2015 that the buildup of Hezbollah’s terror infrastructure in southern Lebanese villages meant that “civilians are living in a military compound” and that their lives were at risk. A few days later, a newspaper linked to Hezbollah bolstered the Israeli assessment.
In his interview, al-Masri also warned that ISIS, Hezbollah, and Iranian forces could be expected to move closer to Israel’s border if Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad remains in power. Research analyst David Daoud made a similar argument in Newsweek last week, writing that if the administration of President-elect Donald Trump defeated ISIS in Syria but left Assad in power, “instead of starving Hezbollah, it would empower that implacable enemy of the United States—one which has already proven itself a formidable threat to Americans.”
[Photo: Ndunruh / Wiki Commons]