|February 21, 2013
Lebanon seems to be moving closer to becoming a major new front in Syria’s 2-year-old civil war after a series of deadly clashes in Syrian between rebel forces and Hezbollah, which backs the embattled Damascus regime.
The Free Syrian Army, one of the leading groups within the overwhelmingly Sunni Muslimopposition, threatened Tuesday to strike at the Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon after the Iranian-backed movement sought to extend its control of Syrian territory along the border.
The Hezbollah offensive, which began last week, appears intended to protect vital supply routes to Syrian forces loyal to the regime from Hezbollah’s heartland in the Bekaa Valley in northeastern Lebanon.
Hezbollah also needs to maintain its own supply route from Syria along which it has been reportedly receiving advanced weapons, such as surface-to-surface missiles capable of hitting anywhere in Israel, and Russian SA-17 anti-aircraft weapons, from President Bashar Assad’s regime and Iran.
Israel views this flow of weapons with considerable alarm because, among other things, they will allow Hezbollah for the first time to challenge its air supremacy.
This is the most likely issue to draw the Israelis into Syria’s war and a Jan. 30 airstrike, supposedly against a Hezbollah arms convoy, indicated how jumpy the Israelis are getting about Iran’s support for Assad, its key Arab ally.
The recent assassination in Syria of a senior Iranian general involved in this operation demonstrated how the Syrian conflict may be expanding.