How Israel's Ground Offensive in Gaza Could Impact Syria

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What's happening in Gaza this week is a boost to the Assad regime and its main ally, Iran, for at least two reasons. First, it means that Hamas is now back on the resistance front after it has had a rift with the regime. In the past, Hamas was accused of helping the Syrian rebels to fight the regime and taught them techniques learned from Hezbollah, including techniques like tunnel digging. Having Hamas back on board carries enormous significance because the regime and Iran cannot credibly claim to lead the resistance bloc without it. Second, the war in Gaza has deflected attention from the events in Syria where the regime is still crushing the revolt and bombing its own civilians. It has helped bring back the Arab-Israeli conflict to the centre of the stage.

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Syria Deeply: How are rebel groups reacting?

Shehadi: There's definitely fallout for the rebels from the war in Gaza. They are in a situation where they feel totally abandoned and where there's now Western talk about engagement with Assad and Iran, who the West might turn to to help resolve the ISIS issue. There is confusion in the West over whether Iran and Assad are the cause or solution to the problem. And it looks like Iran is one of the few players that has influence on Hamas and can be useful in resolving the conflict in Gaza. Iran and Assad have played this game of arsonist/firefighter for a very long time, and it's been very successful. It goes back to the early 1980s where U.S. and European hostages would be kidnapped in Lebanon by Syrian and Iranian proxy groups, and then the hostages would be released to great fanfare in Damascus. Which makes Syria look like it's solving the problem when in fact it's helped create it.

Syria Deeply: Could events in Gaza lead to an escalation in the Golan Heights, the border area between Israel and Syria?

Shehadi: Everything's possible from here. This would depend on how much escalation is needed to extract a deal. If necessary there will be an escalation on the Lebanese-Israeli border. It depends how quickly a cease-fire is achieved between Israel and Hamas. Hamas and the resistance front can already declare victory, because any concessions, like prisoner releases, it obtains through a cease-fire deal will demonstrate that results can be obtained by resistance, whereas negotiations have led nowhere.

This article originally appeared on Syria Deeply.

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