Iran-backed fighters ready to join Hezbollah in potential Israel conflict

Iran-backed fighters ready to join Hezbollah in potential Israel conflict

Shafaq News/ Thousands of fighters from Iran-backed groups in the Middle East are prepared to join Hezbollah in Lebanon if the ongoing conflict with Israel escalates into a full-blown war, officials from these factions and analysts reported to The Associated Press.

Almost daily exchanges of fire have occurred along Lebanon’s frontier since fighters from Hamas launched an assault against Israel in early October, sparking a war in Gaza.

The situation in the south of Lebanon worsened this month after an Israeli airstrike killed a senior Hezbollah military commander. Hezbollah, in retaliation, fired hundreds of rockets and explosive drones on the Israeli sites.

Israeli officials have threatened a military offensive in Lebanon if there is no negotiated end to push Hezbollah away from the border.

The Associated Press report gave an overview of the acts over the past decade; “Iran-backed fighters from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan fought together in Syria’s 13-year conflict, helping tip the balance in favor of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Officials from Iran-backed groups say they could also join together again against Israel.”

AP cited Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah saying in a speech Wednesday that “militant leaders from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and other countries have previously offered to send tens of thousands of fighters to help Hezbollah, but he said the group already has more than 100,000 fighters.”

“We told them, thank you, but we are overwhelmed by the numbers we have,” Sayyed Nasrallah said.

Nasrallah said the battle in its current form is using only a portion of Hezbollah’s manpower, an apparent reference to the specialized fighters who fire missiles and drones.

But that could change in the event of an all-out war. Nasrallah hinted at that possibility in a speech in 2017 in which he said fighters from Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan “will be partners” of such a war.

Officials from Lebanese and Iraqi groups backed by Iran say Iran-backed fighters from around the region will join in if war erupts on the Lebanon-Israel border. “Thousands of such fighters are already deployed in Syria and could easily slip through the porous and unmarked border.”

Some of the groups have already staged attacks on Israel and its allies since the Israel-Hamas war started on Oct. 7. The groups from the so-called “axis of resistance” say they are using a “unity of arenas strategy” and they will only stop fighting when Israel ends its offensive in Gaza against their ally, Hamas.

“We will be (fighting) shoulder to shoulder with Hezbollah” if an all-out war breaks out, one official with an Iran-backed group in Iraq told The Associated Press in Baghdad, insisting on speaking anonymously to discuss military matters. He refused to give further details.

The official, along with another from Iraq, said some advisers from Iraq are already in Lebanon.

An official with a Lebanese Iran-backed group, also insisting on anonymity, said fighters from Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, Afghanistan’s Fatimiyoun, Pakistan Zeinabiyoun, and the Iran-backed group in Yemen known as Houthis could come to Lebanon to take part in a war.

Qassim Qassir, an expert on Hezbollah, agreed that the current fighting is mostly based on high technology, such as firing missiles, and does not need a large number of fighters. But if a war broke out and lasted for a long period, Hezbollah might need support from outside Lebanon, he told AP.

“Hinting to this matter could be (a message) that these are cards that could be used,” he said.

Israel is also aware of the possible influx of foreign fighters.

The AP reported that Eran Etzion, former head of policy planning for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Thursday at a panel discussion hosted by the Washington-based Middle East Institute that he sees “a high probability” of a “multi-front war.”

He said there could be intervention by the Houthis and Iraqi militias and a “massive flow of jihadists from (places) including Afghanistan, Pakistan” into Lebanon and Syrian areas bordering Israel.

Daniel Hagari, Israel’s military spokesman, said in a televised statement this past week that since Hezbollah started its attacks on Israel on Oct. 8, it has fired more than 5,000 rockets, anti-tank missiles, and drones toward Israel.

“Hezbollah’s increasing aggression is bringing us to the brink of what could be a wider escalation, one that could have devastating consequences for Lebanon and the entire region,” Hagari said. “Israel will continue fighting against Iran’s axis of evil on all fronts.”

Hezbollah officials have said they don’t want an all-out war with Israel, but if it happens, they are ready.

“We have decided that any expansion, no matter how limited it is, will be faced with an expansion that deters such a move and inflicts heavy Israeli losses,” Hezbollah’s deputy leader, Naim Kassem, said in a speech this past week.

The UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, and the commander of the UN peacekeeping force deployed along Lebanon’s southern border, Lt. Gen. Aroldo Lázaro, said in a joint statement that “the danger of miscalculation leading to a sudden and wider conflict is very real.”

Qassir, the analyst, told AP that if foreign fighters did join in, it would help them that they fought together in Syria in the past.

“There is a common military language between the forces of the axis of resistance, and this is very important in fighting a joint battle,” he said.

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