The Iranian-backed, Islamist terrorist organization Hezbollah is the talk of the town in Israel, as the Jewish state conducts its largest military exercise in almost 20 years.
With advanced weaponry and thousands of fighters, there are some who now believe Hezbollah to have the second-strongest military force in the Middle East. The Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot claims there are officers in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) who are of this opinion.
While Israel prepares for the next possible war with Hezbollah, Clarion Project analysts believe confrontation is not imminent.
“While Hezbollah leaders lick their lips at the thought of attacking Israel, right now they are too involved in Syria to think of anything else,” said Clarion Editor-in-Chief David Harris. “Hezbollah is playing a major role in the creation of a Shiite military crescent that stretches from Iran, via Iraq and Syria to Lebanon.”
Iran now controls vast swathes of Iraq and, along with Hezbollah and Bashar el-Assad, is rapidly increasing its stranglehold on Syria. Meanwhile, Hezbollah is the largest military player in Lebanon, far outgunning the official Lebanese army.
But that does not mean Hezbollah is ignoring Israel. As the IDF carries out its exercise, Hezbollah watches closely.
“Hezbollah is ready and prepared at any time for any scenario or attack by Israel. They won’t succeed in surprising us,” a Hezbollah official told the terror organization’s newspaper.
Heavily armed and bankrolled by Iran, Hezbollah fighters are located just across Israel’s northern border in Lebanon, in contravention of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which stipulates:
“There will be no weapons without the consent of the Government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the Government of Lebanon.”
A worrying new trend for Israel, the U.S. and the West is that Hezbollah men have picked up new tactics and skills while fighting alongside Russian forces in Syria, as defense correspondent Avi Issacharoff wrote a year ago:
“The truth is that since Russia began its open military activities in Syria, Hezbollah fighters are also learning Russian methods of war, becoming familiar with advanced Russian weaponry, coming to understand the latest Russian technologies and, in some cases, actually fighting alongside Russian special forces.
Hezbollah has some 20-30,000 fighters and possesses rockets that can hit any point in Israel and beyond.
The organization is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States and others, including the Arab League.