Hizballah's combat experience in Syria could make it a more potent threat to Israel, according to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz.
"The bad news from our point of view is that while Hizballah is fighting on three fronts … it is also amassing experience we will one day face," Gantz said, noting that the terrorist group has more firepower than most states. Gantz warned that this experience combined with the terrorist group's firepower makes it a force to be reckoned with – one that Israel will eventually have to confront.
Only a handful of nations – the U.S., China, Russia, Israel, France and the U.K. – have more firepower than the terrorist militia, he said. Hizballah's close connection with the "radical axis led by Iran" adds to the threat facing Israel by contributing to the Islamic republic's strategy of encircling and isolating it. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which threaten Israel with rocket fire from Gaza, also form part of this axis.
"At the same time, World Jihad elements in Syria are getting stronger," Gantz said.
He estimates that the Syrian civil war could last another 10 years.
He warned that Hizballah would be "set back decades" by the damage that Israel would wreak on it in the case of a future war. But the lessons from the 2006 Lebanon war show that an all-out war carries a high cost for Israel.
The war proved that Hizballah no longer was the ragtag Shiite militia that emerged with Iran's backing in the 1980s. It grew into an effective, coordinated fighting force that proved challenging to the IDF. Hizballah stopped Israeli tanks using the latest Russian antitank weaponry and showed unprecedented discipline.
This coordination still exists. Reports from Syria show that Hizballah is organized similar to a regular national army, operating with a military command structure, the latest infantry weapons, and armored vehicles.
Estimates place 4,000 to 10,000 Hizballah fighters in Syria. Assad owes his grip on power in part to Hizballah's capabilities, which have helped repel the Free Syrian Army (FSA), Jabhat al-Nusra and other Sunni jihadist groups.
Although the IDF would still enjoy superiority over Hizballah in a future war, the terrorist group's experience in Syria could give it improved combat performance and force coordination against Israel, much like modern national armies. Hizballah may be able to mount larger-scale offensive operations.
The new threats from Hizballah and other terrorist organizations mean the IDF will need to adapt to maintain its military supremacy, Gantz said.