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Israel trains sights on Syrian and Sinai militants Open in fullscreen

Saleh al-Naami

Israel trains sights on Syrian and Sinai militants

Israel's border with Syria could see violent clashes in the future [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 December, 2014

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Israeli military cites menace of Sunni militants to its north and south, as the threat from Hizballah wanes due to its involvement in the Syrian war.

The Knesset's foreign affairs and defence committee looked satisfied last week as the head of Israeli military intelligence General, Hertzi Halevi, informed them that Israeli airstrikes had targeted positions in Syria.

Halevi himself looked concerned, however. The general told the committee that the Syrian border area could erupt at any second - a clash between Israeli troops and militants around the Golan Heights was a real possibility, and any local incident could become a wider confrontation.

Halevi reaffirmed his statement yesterday when he told a military awards ceremony that the threat from such groups was rising. The website Arutz Sheva reported Halevi as saying that the groups controlled large areas of territory and had military capability.

Though they could not occupy Israel, he said, they still posed a serious threat.

     Observers in Israel do not think Israel and Hizballah are keen to resume hostilities.

Halevi did not expand on his warning but it seems clear that Israel's concerns are not confined to Syria. The military claims, for instance, that groups in Sinai have been supplied with weapons originating from war-torn Libya.

It is clear that Israel's military believes a conflict with such groups is more likely than a conflict with the Lebanese group, Hizballah. In an interview with Israel Hayom last Sunday Craig Franklin, a retired US air force lieutenant general, said the evidence indicated the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as ISIS) was "virtually invincible" and if it was heavily bombarded, it could "pop up somewhere else, under a different name".

Observers in Israel do not think Israel and Hizballah are keen to resume hostilities. Amir Rapaport, a veteran military affairs reporter, told the Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon that Israel was keen to reduce tension on its Lebanese border.

He said Israel had ceased attacks against Hizballah, leaving Hizballah no excuse to attack Israel.

Another military affairs reporter, Yoav Limor, told the Israel Hayom newspaper that military sources thought Hizballah's involvement in the civil war in Syria made it less likely to attack Israel.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

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