JERUSALEM – After being briefed by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and several high-ranking Israeli intelligence and military officials on the internal Syrian chaos, White House officials have reportedly advised President Obama to set aside a substantial amount of time to discuss various military and security issues with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the president’s upcoming visit to Israel.
Many of those issues concern Syria, Iran and Hizbullah. Citing sources inside the rebel Free Syrian Army, which is battling to overthrow the Assad regime, Gulf Arab newspapers have reported that Iranian generals have ordered Lebanese Hizbullah units to link up with a force of as many as 50,000 Iranian Quds shock troops in order to preserve what’s left of the Assad regime and take over large portions of Syrian territory. It’s also being reported that the goal of the shock troops is to wipe out the Free Syrian Army and engage the al Qaeda-affiliated Sunni jihadists, who are also seeking Assad’s ouster. Last week’s assassination of a high-ranking Iranian general by unknown anti-Assad assailants near the Syrian-Lebanese border underscored Iran’s growing influence inside Lebanon and Syria.
Earlier this week, violent battles between the rebels and the remains of the Syrian army in towns along the Golan Heights border with Israel sparked a potentially dangerous scene when seven alleged rebel fighters made their way to the Syrian-Israeli frontier in pursuit of medical assistance.After IDF forces allowed the wounded combatants safe passage for treatment at Ziv Hospital in Safed, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz met with government officials to find ways to deter both Syrian combatants and refugees from approaching the Israeli border fence on the Golan Heights. IDF officials have told the Israeli media that both Hizbullah and al Qaeda fighters are probing Israel’s border defenses ahead of a possible terror attack.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu and Gantz have discussed the possibility of setting up a field hospital along the Syrian-Israeli frontier for the purpose of thwarting a potentially massive rush of refugees, some of whom could be disguised as terrorists.
Just days ago Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah appeared on the Lebanese satellite TV station, Al-Manar, which is affiliated with Hizbullah, and made an ominous threat to “plunge Israel into darkness for weeks.”
Nasrallah also taunted, “How many rockets would it take to knock out Israel’s power stations? Just a few.”
One of Israel’s largest power stations, located along the coastline near Hadera, is considered to be a strategic asset, supplying nearly half the country with electricity. Hizbullah has targeted the facility with its medium- and long-range missiles.
Recognizing the growing threat to the home front, the IDF has positioned several Iron Dome missile batteries in Northern Israel. But IDF commanders have cautioned the government that Iron Dome is incapable of dealing with a massive volley of rockets fired at Israeli targets.
Hizbullah has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks from Iran to try drawing the Jewish state into the Syrian conflict so as to detract Israel and the West from the volatile Iranian nuclear issue.Steve K. Walz
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