General says next Hezbollah war theater will extend to Syria
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General says next Hezbollah war theater will extend to Syria

Northern Command head Aviv Kochavi says shifting security reality a 'small dot' in regional trajectory

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Hezbollah members mourn during the funeral of a comrade who was killed in combat alongside Syrian government forces in the Qalamun region, on May 26, 2015, in the southern Lebanese village of Ghaziyeh. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMOUD ZAYYAT)
Hezbollah members mourn during the funeral of a comrade who was killed in combat alongside Syrian government forces in the Qalamun region, on May 26, 2015, in the southern Lebanese village of Ghaziyeh. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMOUD ZAYYAT)

Nine years after the Second Lebanon War, the army’s chief commander in the north said last week that a future round of fighting against Hezbollah will be conducted across two fronts.

“It’s clear to me that the next campaign against Hezbollah will take place in Syria and in Lebanon,” said OC Northern Command Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi at an evening devoted to the situation in Lebanon held at the IDF Galilee Division headquarters.

Kochavi, as quoted by the army’s weekly news magazine Bamahane, described this new security reality as “a small dot” amid the sea changes in the region.

Since the Syrian civil war, which broke out in March 2011, Hezbollah has been fighting in Syria on behalf of Bashar Assad’s regime.

A senior IDF officer, who recently described Hezbollah as in “strategic distress,” noted in a mid-June briefing that it now has 6,000-8,000 fighters operating in Syria and Iraq, along with advisers in Yemen.

“The last thing they want is to open a front against us,” the officer said.

Nonetheless, the dwindling Syrian sovereignty on its side of the Golan Heights has opened up new territory to Hezbollah. In January, several senior Hezbollah operatives were killed in an airstrike on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.

Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi at the Herzliya security conference in 2012. (Photo credit: Yehoshua Yosef/Flash90)
Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi at the Herzliya security conference in 2012. (Photo credit: Yehoshua Yosef/Flash90)

The attack, claiming the lives of Jihad Mughniyeh and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Brig. Gen. Mohammad Ali Allahdadi, was said to be part of an effort to establish a Hezbollah front against Israel in Syria, thereby preventing Israeli retaliation against Lebanon.

“This is an Iranian effort in cooperation with Hezbollah to open a front against us in the Golan Heights,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told Army Radio on January 25. “That is the incident. What were dealing with in essence is a co-production.”

In response, Hezbollah retaliated with a strike on Mount Dov, killing two Israeli soldiers and wounding seven. The attack, on contested territory and against soldiers, did not escalate into war.

Since the 34-day war in 2006, the Lebanon front has been quiet. A future conflict, though, will likely feature 1,500 rockets per day on Israel, the outgoing head of the IDF Home Front Command told the Times of Israel in April.

“I say to the other side: I do not have the color to shade in what Beirut will look like in the next war,” Maj. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg said at the time. “It will be far more gloomy, more painful, more black.”

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