Official: Low chance of war against Israel in 2017

Neither Hamas, which has lost international support, nor Hezbollah, mired in Syrian war, is interested in war, says army assessment

Hezbollah parading its military equipment in Qusayr, Syria, November 2016. (Twitter)
Hezbollah parading its military equipment in Qusayr, Syria, November 2016. (Twitter)

A senior Israeli military officer said the army believes the chaos in the Middle East has weakened the country’s enemies, creating a low probability of war involving Israel in 2017.

The official said that the army concluded that neither Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shiite terrorist organization, nor the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas which rules the Gaza Strip is interested in sparking a new conflict.

The official spoke on Wednesday on condition of anonymity according to military protocol. He was sharing an official year-end intelligence assessment.

He said that Hezbollah is mired in the Syrian civil war, where it has been supporting Bashar Assad’s government troops. He also claimed that Hamas has lost much of its support from outside Gaza. Still, the official cautioned that an unexpected “dynamic of escalation” could always risk sparking a new conflict.

Israel fought a month-long war with Hezbollah in 2006 and has since waged three wars with Hamas, most recently in 2014.

The official also showed a photograph of a Hezbollah military parade which included several M113 armored personal carriers. He told journalists in English that the “APCs are of the Hezbollah, while fighting in Syria, that they took from the Lebanese armed forces,” Reuters reported.

“We shared this information with other countries, including the US of course,” he said. “I can even say that we recognized these specific APCs with some specific parameters that we know… these were given to the Lebanese armed forces. It’s not an assumption,” he told reporters.

The M113 was first used by the US in 1962 during the Vietnam War. Since then it has been modified and adapted and it is one of the most widely used military vehicles of all time. Some 80,000 M113s have been produced and used by over 50 countries worldwide.

The Lebanese Army has over 2,000 M113s. Tobias Schneider, a defense analyst, has speculated on Twitter that the APCs displayed by Hezbollah came from the Lebanese Army — a charge that the Pentagon denied.

“The Lebanese military has publicly stated that the M113s depicted online were never part of their equipment roster,” a Pentagon official told the Washington Post. “Our initial assessment concurs: The M113s allegedly in Hezbollah’s possession in Syria are unlikely to have come from the Lebanese military. We are working closely with our colleagues in the Pentagon and in the Intelligence Community on to resolve this issue.”

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