Gadi Eisenkot says recent threats by Lebanese terror group meant to conceal its ‘morale crisis’; Gazans ‘unwilling’ to launch new war
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot downplayed the chances for a fresh war with either the Hezbollah or Hamas terror groups in the near future, saying they were both uninterested in a new conflict and, in the Lebanese group’s case, demoralized as well.
Speaking at a closed-door meeting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Eisenkot said that despite having gained battlefield experience as a result of its military invention in Syria on behalf of the regime of Bashar Assad, Lebanese terror group Hezbollah had been left significantly weakened the fighting in Syria.
“Hezbollah’s [military] operations in Syria have brought about a morale and financial crisis within its ranks,” the Hebrew-language Ynet news site quoted him as saying.
Eisenkot’s comments regarding Hezbollah’s intentions were made following a number of hawkish statements from the Shiite organization’s leader Hassan Nasrallah in the past week, including a threat Monday that the group will not abide by any “red lines” in a future war with Israel.
“In the face of Israel’s threats to destroy Lebanon’s infrastructure, we will not abide by red lines, especially regarding Haifa’s ammonia and the nuclear reactor in Dimona. Hezbollah possesses the full courage for this,” he said, according to an English translation of his comments reported by the Naharnet website.
Nasrallah also threatened to strike the nuclear facility in the southern Israeli city of Dimona during a speech last week and claimed credit for a decision to shut down the ammonia facility, which could cause thousands of deaths if hit by a missile.
During Wednesday’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee session, Eisenkot also addressed the threat posed by Hamas on Israel’s southern border, saying he does not believe the terror group has any “willingness” to launch an offensive against Israel at the current time.
Eisenkot’s comments on Hamas were made in regards to the implications of Yahya Sinwar, a senior official in the group’s military wing the Izz a-Din al-Qassam Brigades, becoming Hamas’s new leader in the Gaza Strip.
“The separation of the political and military leadership in Hamas is blurred to the point of being eliminated altogether,” Channel 10 quoted the IDF chief of staff as saying. “I don’t see a willingness in Gaza to launch a campaign against us.”
Since Sinwar was selected as Hamas leader in Gaza in secret internal elections earlier this month, there has been speculation that the terror group may become more unrestrained in its approach toward Israel militarily, as even by the standards of the Islamist organization he is considered an extremist.
However, senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk told the pan-Arab news channel al-Araby that despite the election of Sinwar, the policies of Hamas will not undergo any “radical change.”
Sinwar, sentenced to life in 1989 for murdering Palestinian collaborators with Israel, spent 22 years in Israeli prisons before being released in the 2011 prisoner exchange deal for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
Despite being released under the terms of the deal, Sinwar was one of the main opponents of the Shalit exchange deal that saw him freed because he regarded the terms, one Israeli soldier for 1,027 prisoners, as a surrender to Israel’s conditions.
Since his release, he has managed to amass a great deal of political power in Hamas, and was already widely considered the strongest man in Gaza even though he was not the head of Hamas’s military or political wing.
In September 2015, Sinwar was added to the US terrorism blacklist alongside two other members of Hamas’s military wing.
Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.