Israel – On May 4, there were reports that the Israeli air force had struck at least one target inside Syria. It was thought that the intended target was a Syrian chemical weapons delivery system which may have been destined for Hezbollah. There have been numerous reports of Hezbollah fighting for the al-Assad government against the Free Syrian Army and its associates. With the amount of speculation that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons in the past, Israel must be concerned that some of the means of delivery of weapons of mass destruction would find their way into Hezbollah hands and be transported back to their homeland. In addition, there were also reports that surface to surface missiles from Iran had being targeted at the Damascus airfield. The Israelis refused to comment on the airstrikes. The Arab League has condemned the attacks and asked the United Nations Security Council to stop what it calls, "Israeli attacks." The Arab League has had little input regarding the fighting in Syria but have now defended Syria with no clear explanation about the targets that Israel hit. If the Syrians were indeed attempting to arm Hezbollah with chemical weapons or a means of delivery, surly they would request Syria to confirm or deny this prior to a request made the UN. Although the Arab league sides with the FSA, it is claiming that Israel had made a “dangerous violation of an Arab State.” If Hezbollah, however, had received weapons of mass destruction and used them against Israel, it would be a curious matter of how the Arab League would address this and how it would put a stop to an ongoing conflict that suddenly became even more complicated.
Lebanon – Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has hinted that Syria “had real friends” and would not allow it “to fall into the hands” of the US, and that the Lebanese militia was ready to support the al-Assad government. The comments came after United States President Barack Obama stated that he was ready to escalate US involvement in Syria. The last thing that Hezbollah wants is the fall of an important ally (Syria) and Americans in the country next to Lebanon. This would give them a problem of facing Israel on one side and Syria with Americans inside on the other. Hezbollah, although supplying members of its militant organization to assist in the Syrian conflict, is very concerned about the fall of the country to the FSA and their associates. Their much needed money and logistic support that arrives from Iran into Syria and channeled to Hezbollah will dry up until Iran finds other ways to supply them. IF the al-Assad government Syria falls, Hezbollah will become an even more important ally of Iran. Hezbollah would rather keep Bashar al-Assad in power, but if the Americans and British get involved further in Syria, Hezbollah will become a bigger threat in order to keep the al-Assad government in power.
Syria – With the Israelis attacking sites within its country using airstrikes, the al-Assad government has stated that this is an act of war. It is difficult to see how the Syrians will move forward on this claim as it has enough problems within its own country at the moment- not only fighting the rebels but also recruitment (although it may not be difficult to find personnel ready to fight the Israelis). This could also be the diversion it needs in order to galvanize organizations to strike back at Israel using Iran and Hezbollah to carryout the fighting for them. Even with all the saber rattling from the Syrian government, however, it is very unlikely that it will retaliate against Israel.
West Bank/Gaza Strip – Over the last few months, Hamas has been arresting personnel with militant Salafist connections. On May 2, six Salafists were arrested, four of which were accused of stealing rockets from other militant groups and two others for causing an explosion that caused human material damage. It is unclear which organization the six belonged to but they may have possibly come from the Popular Resistance Committees whom they believe are being targeted by Hamas in the Gaza Strip for their beliefs. It is unclear why Hamas are currently arresting members of Salafist organizations. Whether Hamas wants total control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip so that it can attempt to put itself in a negotiating ability with Israel, or that rockets were stolen and they were from a more influential group with a much larger strategy and influence. However, there is a possibility that militant Salafists could unite and cause numerous problems for Hamas in the future. Either way, security in the region could again explode if the organization cannot find a happy solution to move forward.
Paul Ashley is the Senior Counter-Terrorist Analyst