Friday, October 31, 2014

After losing 1,000 men in Syria, Hezbollah builds ‘security zone'

(Times of Israel) Almost six months have passed since the last suicide bombing on the streets of Dahiya, the Shi’ite quarter of Beirut and a Hezbollah stronghold. After a number of lethal attacks from radical Sunni groups, including the Abdullah Azzam Brigade, on Iranian and Hezbollah targets, it appears that the Shi’ite organization has managed, with considerable effort, to stop the attacks, if only temporarily

There are several reasons for this success, including Hezbollah activities on the Syrian side of the border, and Lebanese Army raids on terrorist strongholds.

But a major cause for the stabilized security situation in Shi’ite areas is the “security zone” Hezbollah has created on the Syria/Lebanon border. It features a series of permanent bases built by the organization in recent months in order to prevent the flow of Sunni terrorists into Lebanon. These outposts are situated primarily in the central sector of the border. In part, this is because the movement of vehicles to the north and to the south is difficult, and can be monitored and controlled by Hezbollah without a round-the-clock presence.

The center of the border was seen as especially problematic by Hezbollah, and the organization recognized that this was the area that had to be closed off and secured, and that random patrols or observation from afar would not suffice. Hezbollah understood it needed to focus on this sector 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This led to the decision to build permanent bases overlooking the entire sector, similar to Israel’s security zone in southern Lebanon until 2000.

According to various estimates, 1,000 Hezbollah fighters are stationed within the outposts alone. Add to that figure another 4,500-5,000 operating in Syria and battling the opposition forces there. Patrols around the central sector head out from these outposts, and there is also an effort to enlist local collaborators who can provide real-time intelligence.

The fighters are protected by fortifications and earthworks, and they are supported by a complex logistical effort, which includes food, clothing, and arms which arrive in an orderly fashion.

In other words, this is not the 1990s Hezbollah, and not even Hezbollah from the last decade. The Shi’ite organization no longer operates solely as a terrorist or guerrilla group. It does that as well, but Hezbollah has adopted the modus operandi of nothing less than a conventional army in its efforts to keep Sunni fighters out of Lebanon.