Israel Military Chief: Hezbollah Stronger than Most Countries in the Region

In a wide-ranging address, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz spoke about the gamut of security challenges to Israel on Monday morning at the Herzliya Conference, reports The Times of Israel and Israel National News.

The conference, hosted by the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, is Israel’s annual center stage for discussion of national policy by its most prominent leaders.  Central issues first raised or emphasized in the conferences often become part of the public discourse in Israel.

Speaking about Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon to Israel's north, Gantz appraised the Iran-proxy terror group, saying "there are maybe four of five countries (in the region) with more fire power than Hezbollah. They have a tremendous fire power which covers all of Israel." 

Gantz warned of dangers from the Syrian civil war, one being the strengthening of the radical axis of Assad, Iran and Hezbollah. In addition, he noted the global jihad Islamist terror movement is also gaining strength through its operations in Syria. 

A repeated theme throughout his address was the instability and unpredictability of the region.

“Jihadists are remaking the Sykes-Picot borders of old,” Gantz noted, referring to the World War I-era secret lines dividing the Middle East between British and French spheres of influence.

“We must remain vigilant and prepared, but we also cannot tell you what the story will be tomorrow. If we are sitting and enjoying a cup of espresso at 9:30 a.m., by 10:30 a.m. we could be at war.”

Gantz warned that Syria is like a house of cards which has collapsed. “As long as [President Bashar] Assad is in power, there will be no effective solution. I expect we could see another decade of violence there.” 

Gantz said Hamas in the Gaza Strip was not looking for another war with Israel, but terrorists there were still undertaking a “dramatic” replenishing of their missile stockpiles.  In Gaza there was has been “a dramatic increase in medium- and long-range rockets,” he said.

His statement came hours after two rockets were fired out of Gaza at southern Israel.

Gantz also spoke about the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program. 

Gantz argued that the nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, the most recent round of which is opening in Geneva on Monday, do not represent a sincere change in the Islamic regime's goals. 


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