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Hezbollah reshaping battle strategy

  • Hezbollah members parade in Teffahta during a ceremony commemorating three slain Hezbollah leaders, Imad Mughniyeh, Abbas Musawi and Sheikh Ragheb Harb, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

Despite the secrecy surrounding the details of the Israeli airstrike against Hezbollah, high-ranking security sources and experts in the military told The Daily Star that Syrian takfiri groups recently acquiring qualitative weapons has led the Lebanese party to shift its entire focus on the battles in Syria.

According to the sources and experts, the raids might have come as a response to the party’s intense activity on Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria, as it prepares for heavier involvement in the war next door by using new fighting techniques and recruiting new fighters.

Those same sources believe that there are two sides to the story about the raids that were carried out by Israeli jets on the Lebanese-Syrian border Monday night: The first is that the jets were targeting Hezbollah posts, and the second is that they targeted Hezbollah convoys carrying heavy rockets.

The sources said that the airstrikes came in the context of continuous Israeli monitoring of the possibility of a heavy weapons transfer from Syria to Lebanon through illegal crossings, an issue much spoken about regionally in terms of the necessity of controlling the transfer, even if it requires the use of an international force to control the borders.

And while the sources do not consider this operation to constitute an Israeli intervention into the Syrian conflict, or support to the opposition in the battles of Yabroud, they believe that the complexity of the Syrian war and its consequences on neighboring countries, including Lebanon, are a source of comfort to Israel as far as the emergence of the resistance goes, especially because chaos usually moves from Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut.

The sources suggest that Hezbollah did not retaliate because the party cannot fight on two fronts and that targeting convoys on the border with Syria does not constitute an excuse for the party to formally retaliate.

Furthermore, reports that the airstrike will give Hezbollah a greater incentive to keep fighting in Syria in the midst of a political struggle revolving around the Baabda Declaration are inconsequential insofar as its decision to support the Syrian regime comes as an order from Iran, issued directly by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

It was revealed that Hezbollah has already prepared a plan for a military operation under the title “The White Mountains” based in Lebanon’s eastern mountain range adjacent to Syria. The plan aims to eradicate posts belonging to Syrian rebels, as well as provide security support on the road from Damascus to the Syrian coast, and then move toward Yabroud, which Hezbollah considers a key area where cars are being rigged and sent to Lebanon.

According to the intelligence data, Hezbollah military officials held meetings last week at the regime’s operations headquarters in the presence of Syrian officers in order to prepare for a military campaign to occupy Yabroud, with the participation of Iraqi cells, namely members of Assaib al-Haq and Abu al-Fadl Abbas – a great number of whom have recently made it to Syria through the Al-Najaf Airport – and not the participation of the Lebanese Resistance Brigades.

In terms of the preparations underway to occupy the border towns, those coming from Arsal point out that Hezbollah has continued its siege on the town in east Lebanon, and its reconnaissance drones have been flying over Yabroud, Nabak and Qalamoun through Arsal, which could have prompted Israel to intervene and restore balance on the ground for the two sides of the Syrian conflict.

Hezbollah and the Syrian military are rushing to launch a battle in Yabroud to mitigate the dangers of suicide bombers and rigged cars coming to Lebanon, as discontent grows among party supporters.

And what is provoking Hezbollah further, according to sources close to the party, is that it has discovered that the Palestinian group Hamas has provided Iranian-made reconnaissance planes to fundamentalist groups.

These planes have been sent to Lebanon from the outskirts of Arsal, and there are serious fears that they could be used to target the Lebanese Army or Hezbollah posts once they are rigged with explosives. One of these planes was secretly transferred to the area of Wadi al-Jamous in Akkar to be rigged by a Libyan explosives expert who holds a fake Tunisian passport.

Concerning Syria, should influential countries be unable to find a political solution, Hezbollah’s Shoura Council has decided to ask the military leadership to recruit more young soldiers to fight in Syria.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 27, 2014, on page 3.
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Summary

Despite the secrecy surrounding the details of the Israeli airstrike against Hezbollah, high-ranking security sources and experts in the military told The Daily Star that Syrian takfiri groups recently acquiring qualitative weapons has led the Lebanese party to shift its entire focus on the battles in Syria.

The sources said that the airstrikes came in the context of continuous Israeli monitoring of the possibility of a heavy weapons transfer from Syria to Lebanon through illegal crossings, an issue much spoken about regionally in terms of the necessity of controlling the transfer, even if it requires the use of an international force to control the borders.

And while the sources do not consider this operation to constitute an Israeli intervention into the Syrian conflict, or support to the opposition in the battles of Yabroud, they believe that the complexity of the Syrian war and its consequences on neighboring countries, including Lebanon, are a source of comfort to Israel as far as the emergence of the resistance goes, especially because chaos usually moves from Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut.


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