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January 27, 2015 / 7 Shevat, 5775
 
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The Coming Middle East War


The warning signs are everywhere, yet no one wishes to see them. Israel’s foes are gearing up for war, and it’s time we opened our eyes to the danger that confronts us.

The conflict may be just weeks or even months away, or perhaps a bit longer. How it will start is anyone’s guess, but make no mistake, a major outbreak of hostilities is almost certainly around the corner.

If this sounds like scaremongering or even an advanced case of paranoia, just take a glance at the newspapers from the past few weeks. If you read them with a discerning eye, you will see exactly what I mean.

For whichever direction you look, trouble – major trouble – is brewing.

In Lebanon, Hizbullah is busy rebuilding its expansive terrorist infrastructure after this summer’s fighting with Israel. Under the protective shield of UN troops, the group has been welcoming large shipments of weapons from Iran and Syria, and fortifying its bunkers in advance of the next round of conflict.

In a speech delivered last month in Beirut, Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah asserted that his organization still has “more than 20,000 rockets” and that it had “recovered all its organizational and military capabilities.”

Even if we allow for an element of boasting and exaggeration, there are clear signs that Nasrallah is steadily engaged in rebuilding his forces.

Indeed, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of the IDF intelligence directorate’s research department, told the Cabinet last week “There is conclusive and decisive evidence” that Syria is rearming Hizbullah.

“The weapons smuggling from Syria into Lebanon,” Baidatz said, “is continuing with official Syrian involvement.” He added that Damascus has kept its forces on a war footing, with their artillery and missiles deployed in forward battle positions.

Along these lines, Syrian President Bashar Assad has made a series of public statements in recent weeks, speaking openly about the possibility of military conflict with Israel and his desire to retake the Golan Heights by force.

In an interview with the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Anba on October 6, Assad said that Damascus was ready for war with the Jewish state. Previously, he insisted that the Golan would be “liberated by Syrian arms,” and warned Israel to “seek peace or face the threat of defeat.”

Turning south toward Gaza, the situation is likewise disturbing. Palestinian terrorists continue to fire Kassam rockets into the Negev on a daily basis, hitting Israeli towns and communities such as Sderot and Nir Am.

Since the start of the year, Hamas is said to have smuggled into Gaza over 20 tons of explosives, anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles. According to media reports, Hamas has also assembled an armed military force consisting of 7,500 fighters, which is said to include specialized units such as snipers, missile batteries and anti-tank troops.

As Yediot Aharonot military correspondent Alex Fishman put it, “The Palestinians are arming themselves to the teeth, building a military force, defensive systems and preparing Hizbullah-style surprises.”

Nor is Hamas hiding its intentions. In a recent statement, the group’s Izzadin al-Kassam brigades declared that it has the “means and arms necessary to confront the Zionist enemy with all our force.”

Saying they are “totally ready to resist,” Hamas added, somewhat ominously: “We have finished preparations to teach the Zionist enemy a lesson it will not forget.”

And then, of course, there is the threat from Tehran, where the Iranian president speaks of wiping Israel off the map even as he continues to pursue his nuclear ambitions.

As if all this were not enough, there have been persistent reports in recent months about a growing Al Qaeda presence in the territories, as the international terrorist group seeks to position itself for launching strikes against the Jewish state.

Israel now finds itself surrounded by an arc of hate stretching from Beirut and Damascus in the north, to Tehran in the east, and back to Gaza in the south. Along each chord of this arc, our foes are diligently arming themselves and preparing for battle, both verbally and in practice.

Just as Iran sought to send a message to Israel and the U.S. this summer by provoking an outbreak of hostilities in Lebanon, so too Tehran now appears determined to lay the groundwork for a much greater, and far more ambitious, flare-up, one that would threaten to consume the entire region. The Iranians presumably view this as their trump card, thinking that it will give them the means of forestalling a possible U.S. or Israeli attack on their nuclear facilities.

About the Author: Michael Freund is the Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel. He writes a syndicated column and feature stories for the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s leading English-language daily, and he previously served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister’s Office under Benjamin Netanyahu. A native of New York, he holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.


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