Hizbullah in ‘internal crisis,’ won’t start war, Israel says

by WorldTribune Staff, September 5, 2017

Hurting financially, racked by internal turmoil and with its troops deployed across the Middle East, Hizbullah is not likely to engage in conflict with Israel in the near future, a top Israeli military official said.

“It is an internal crisis over what they are fighting for, an economic crisis and a leadership crisis,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said.

A Hizbullah fighter stands in front of anti-tank artillery at Juroud Arsal, the Syria-Lebanon border. / Reuters

Iran-backed Hizbullah has thousands of fighters in Syria, has sent others to train Shi’ite fighters in Iraq to battle Islamic State (ISIS) and is also backing Houthi rebels in Yemen against the Saudi-led coalition.

A recent report in The New York Times quoted analysts as saying that Hizbullah has lost 2,000 fighters in Syria and double that amount are believed to have been wounded.

The Israel Air Force has in the past five years carried out 100 airstrikes against convoys believed to be transferring advanced weaponry from Iran via Syria to Hizbullah.

Hizbullah is also feeling a huge financial strain from its involvement in the Syrian conflict, now in its sixth year, and U.S. sanctions on its main benefactor Iran.

Paying the salaries of the 6,000 to 8,000 fighters it has in Syria – estimated at $500 to $1,200 monthly per fighter – and caring for the families of those killed and wounded in that war are straining the terror organization’s purse strings.

The IDF said that Hizbullah is “in a bad place,” especially since the 2016 assassination of one of its top commanders in Syria.

Moustafa Badreddine, responsible for the terror group’s military operations in Syria since 2011, was killed in Damascus in March of last year in an explosion initially believed to have been a covert Israeli operation, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Hizbullah later officially blamed Syrian opposition groups for Badreddine’s death, saying he was killed in an explosion targeting one of its bases near the city’s airport, caused by “artillery bombardment carried out by takfiri [Sunni extremist] groups present in that region.”

Israeli intelligence later concluded that Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah gave the order himself for Badreddine’s assassination, after being pressured by Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, because the top Hizbullah commander was in conflict with Iranian military commanders in Syria.

“It is believed that since his assassination both Iran and Nasrallah are viewed suspiciously within the group,” the Jerusalem Post report said.

While the war of words between Israel and Hizbullah will continue, “it is unlikely that Hizbullah would want to start a new round of fighting with its southern neighbor,” the report said. “Instead it will likely continue its focus on sending troops to back and train fighters in Iraq and Yemen, and to fight and die for Assad.”

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