Hezbollah and Hamas Are Not Alone
The collapsing Middle Eastern regimes are becoming fertile grounds for
terror enclaves to establish roots, and not just in Lebanon and Gaza. In a
special review, Atai Shelach explains the dangers of the new situation
Atai Shelach 24/11/2012
Hezbollah’s takeover of Lebanon exemplifies this trend. Built on a radical
religious ideology, the organization established its headquarters in a weak
country, growing with little interference, to become one of the world's most
notorious terrorist organizations. Hezbollah consolidated its strength
within the borders of the host state, 'incubating' for a time by exploiting
Lebanon's weaknesses. It then established and operated through
“institutionalized” organizations within the government’s entities, and
eventually went on to operate within Lebanon’s military sphere. Hamas is
another example of a group that has risen and grown in strength within the
Palestinian borders. Originally a terror organization, it later developed
into one with state and political sponsorship. Replicating Hezbollah’s
pattern of activity, Hamas took ideology, loosely controlled territory, and
a Zionist enemy (as a scapegoat to gain public legitimacy) to build its
These two are the more widely known examples, but Hezbollah and Hamas are
not alone. In the framework of the Arab Spring, terrorist entities have
begun to spring up in uncontrolled territory – a phenomenon stemming from
the weakened regimes. As the revolutions disrupt government order, various
organizations are taking advantage of the opportunity to utilize their
operational capabilities and popularity within the population to establish
pockets of control.
How does this method differ from the past? First, it is important to note
that the terrorist groups are not new - existing groups are exploiting the
present chaos. They are slowly taking hold by using state or local assets as
bases to train, gather weapons, strengthen, prepare, and eventually embark
on terror missions.
Advanced weapons represent an essential issue in the organizations'
development. One of the main goals of every terror organization is to
strengthen its position by acquiring better weapons. Terror groups are
working day and night to keep their weapon supply routes open: from
smuggling, acquisition, theft, and even the establishment of improvised
workshops for weapons production. In most cases, they invest considerable
energy to obtain advanced state-level weapons to upgrade their operational
capabilities and to advance their world standing.
In this new reality, the time needed to obtain weapons and operational
capability is very short. Usually, terror organizations need considerable
time to achieve operational readiness due to geographic constraints, close
supervision, the absence of training facilities and available weapons, and
other reasons. In this new reality, the organizations already exist,
training facilities and "fire areas" are abundant, supervision is lax, and
weapons (including very advanced ones) are relatively available – allowing
terror organizations to reach operational effectiveness very quickly.
Syria established numerous defensive infrastructures at the national level,
and at the tactical and campaign echelons over the past four decades.
According to foreign sources, terror organizations such as Al Qaeda and
Hezbollah are already based in Syria. The demilitarized buffer zone, based
on agreements signed in 1974 after the Yom Kippur War, has long since turned
into “officer residence neighborhoods” (military facilities). The day is not
far – and may have already arrived – when various organizations establish
terror dens close to Israel’s border in these “neighborhoods.”
There is a greater concern with regards to Syria that advanced weapons might
find their way to various terror groups. Syria is teeming with advanced
weapons, with an emphasis on its artillery rocket layout. One does not need
much of an imagination to envision what might happen if they end up
possessing even some of the existing measures.
Syria’s rebels already hold part of the country’s enormous stockpile of
advanced weapons. It is quite possible that these weapons will reach (or
have already reached) a terrorist organization. Given the increasingly
volatile situation, not much more is needed for terror forces to direct fire
against Israel as well. The motivation already exists, the weapons are
present, and the territorial proximity is convenient, to say the least. The
restraining elements that once existed, such as acentral government and
regime, are nearly nonexistent, as most of Assad’s remaining energy is
directed at the rebel forces.
Much has already been said about the smuggling relationship between Syria
and Hezbollah. One of the more worrying phenomena, which may gain momentum
in the absence of effective Syrian leadership, is the acceleration of the
smuggling and delivery of weapons, especially advanced weapons, to
Given the situation in Syria, it would be far easier for militant groups to
obtain advanced weapons in large quantities and then transfer them to
Hezbollah or another organization in Syria interested in attacking Israel.
Beyond weapons, Syria’s territory and its existing defense infrastructure,
including advanced training areas and facilities, will enable terror
organizations to train, gain strength, and establish numerous operational
capabilities and qualifications.
In the Back Yard
The integration of terror organizations, defensive infrastructure, the close
proximity to Israel’s territory, and the absence of state governance and
sovereignty pose a serious threat to Israel, which could come from a terror
attack from Syria or Egypt, or from weapons smuggled from other countries.
Given the existing and potential threats, a wide range of activities should
be evaluated, starting from intelligence and up to operational
considerations. What is important is to understand and internalize these
threats and their techno-operational implications, and what far-reaching and
troubling implications terror attacks utilizing state capabilities may have.