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Hizbollah Poised On The Golan

Summary: Hizbollah closing in on Israel's northern border presents worrying news for Jerusalem and the wider region. Who is behind this buildup and what are the potential outcomes in the coming days? We analyse the options.

Israel once more finds herself in a precarious security situation on her northern border with Syria. A discernible military buildup has been witnessed in the past few days and now seems to be indicating that tensions are likely to be ratcheted up again.

Observed this week are large-scale Hizbollah movements outside Quneitra, a village just across from Israel's border on the Golan Heights. Joining Hizbollah appear to be Lebanese Shiite fighters under the lead of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Command, (IRGC).

Iranian media is claiming that this buildup has been ordered to put an end to "the presence of armed men in the area close to the border". It is not clear what the term, 'armed men' refers to, however. It could be contingents of the remaining Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in the area or pockets of stubborn Islamic State fighters.

Our Analysis

We have highlighted before the vulnerability of Israel's border with Syria and have been amazed and thankful that despite the 5 year + civil war that has ravaged that nation, Israel has been, by and large, spared any cross-border incursions from Syrian rebel groups, government forces, Islamic State and other anti-Israel factions.

The entrance of Russian forces last year into the Syrian conflict along with the increased presence and territorial strategies of Iran, has further caused deep concerns for Israel's government, as to what its enemies may be planning in the coming months.

Perhaps, Iran's reference to 'armed men', is a not too overt meaning for Israel itself. Not surprising as one of the main drivers of Iranian/Islamic antagonism in the region is to see a full scale assault on Israel and purge the area of the 'zionist entity', rhetoric frequently chanted throughout the Arab world. Iran is keen to champion the cause and no doubt is meticulously planning this next phase towards destroying Israel.

The regime in Iran is doing this through its proxy militant groups on the ground such as Hizbollah and various, smaller Lebanese Shiite factions in South Syria.

Be in no doubt, that Tehran is the main player here and is, furthermore, emboldened by its perceived success is hoodwinking the West over the debacle of the nuclear agreement. It is stronger, more powerful, war experienced and now cash rich, poised to assert its authority over willing militias in return for advancing its anti-Israel/West cause in the area.

This latest escalation may well serve as the predicted precursor for Iran and Hizbollah to open a new warfront against Israel. For their part, Israel will have to contest with a much different Hizbollah than the one it fought back in 2006, in what was the Second Lebanon War.

Hizbollah has since secured much better financial backing, Iranian technical and logistical input and invaluable battlefield experience in the last 5 years of the Syrian conflict.

Analysts also believe it has stockpiled numerous weapons at a major base it operates in Qusair, near the Syrian border with Lebanon. Mortars, artillery and even Russian T-72 tanks are now part of its armoury, ready for immediate service. Ballistic missiles are likely within the group's possession. If so, this will present a very real concern for Israel's military chiefs and Home Front Command.

True, Hizbollah has suffered setbacks and certain military fatigue and loss. However, Assad seems to be turning the war to his advantage and with ongoing Russian and Iranian backing, Hizbollah has survived a crisis of identity and is fitter and more ready than ever to throw the gauntlet in Israel's direction.

The military build up in Quneitra has seen heavy artillery, tanks, anti-aircraft guns and Russian made weapons being installed and readied for future operations. The firepower and potential range of missiles capable of being deployed is a major threat to Israel, as Russian rocket technology puts all Israel within firing range.

Israel will surely be worried about the buildup but not surprised. Historically, attacks and invasion into Israel have typically come from the north. But for the past few years, the Israel Defence Forces have staged numerous attack/defence exercises on the Golan Heights, that model various scenarios involving all the above enemy players.

However, that does not mean that Israel can predict every likely outcome in advance, given the fluid nature of events on the ground in Syria and the border region. Time has shown that gains can become losses quickly and vice-versa. But, in the south of Syria, Assad's foes seem to be disappearing one by one, not to return. In the vacuum, a much more deadly alliance against Israel is forming for a showdown.

As seen previously at such times, Israel will be forced into likely pre-emptive action to deter Iran and Hizbollah from being too provocative. Israel has repeatedy stated that any troop massing on the northern border will be treated as a redline, over which it will act unilaterally and swiftly to curtail any possible escalation into full out war.

Israel does need a war and is not looking for one. Gaza continues to burn with incitement as does the Palestinian Authority. Municipal elections across the West Bank are drawing close and there is much uncertainty as to which way the political pendulum will swing in the Palestinian Territories.

If it swings in Hamas' favour, then a new and frightening reality stares Israel in the face; Hamas in the West Bank and within the heartland of Israel proper.

Couple this with the developing northern security threat and it appears the clouds are darkening once more for Israel.

6 Isaiah said to them, "Say to your master, 'Thus says the LORD: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled me. 7 Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.'"
2 Kings 19:6-7

Please pray with us that God is able to diffuse the growing tensions over the border; that the plans of Iran and Hizbollah be exposed in advance so Israel can formulate an appropriate response to cool things down. Israel would be quite within rights to take pre-emptive action to what is clearly provocation for direct confrontation.

Pray for the protection of the Israeli units, vigilant and concerned over the border, facing this new build up of those who hate Israel and God's purposes.

Pray that Iran does not become a nuclear power in the region. We must accept that this is Tehran's goal, without any doubt. The thought is a chilling one of apocalyptic proportions and signal a reign of terror and intimidation by Iran against any nation that would try to get in its way of hegemony, locally and globally.

Ultimately, only the God of Israel can defend Jacob and for this we must press into heaven, that His purposes for Israel come to fruition the way He has planned. Of course, this may mean those eternal purposes are fulfilled as it were through the fire of testing. If so, may God be merciful to bring His people and us through such times, together.

About Ian Jupp

Ian Jupp is Executive Director of Return To Zion Ministries.
Ian's experience as a communicator, pastor, writer, teacher and his understanding of the Middle East, Israel, The Church and God's purposes, place him in a unique position to provide timely commentary on the urgent, prophetic events that are unfolding in our day.
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