Hezbollah scrambles to secure Syria-Lebanon border amid mounting Syria casualties, declining Lebanon support


Hezbollah has set up a "security zone" along the length of the Syria-Lebanon border - and has staffed it with over 1,000 fighters who patrol the area on a 24-hour basis - as the Iran-backed terror organization struggles to cope with mounting losses in Syria and with continued blowback from that war inside Lebanon. Veteran Israeli security correspondent Avi Issacharoff described the "zone" on Friday as "a series of permanent bases built by the organization in recent months in order to prevent" infiltration into Lebanon by Sunni fighters, who have threatened to strike Hezbollah in response to the group's fighting on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime. The Hezbollah personnel are "protected by fortifications and earthworks, and they are supported by a complex logistical effort, which includes food, clothing, and arms which arrive in an orderly fashion," to the point where "Hezbollah has adopted the modus operandi of nothing less than a conventional army in its efforts to keep Sunni fighters out of Lebanon." Observers seem increasingly convinced, however, that Lebanon will end up being dragged into the conflict. The Associated Press (AP) reported a few weeks ago that - though the crisis had been "slow in coming" - both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and Hezbollah fighters were now finding themselves in regular firefights along the Syrian border. Lebanon's Daily Star subsequently reported how "residents and political movements in... villages [along the Syrian border] have voiced fears that Hezbollah and the Syrian regime might push" fighting into their areas. By last Monday The New York Times, describing sectarian clashes in Tripoli between Sunni fighters and LAF soldiers, was ready to bluntly note that "the expanding border conflict threatens to engulf residents of Shiite, Christian and Sunni villages." A day later the Washington Post conveyed analysis from Imad Salamey, associate professor of political science at the Beirut-based Lebanese American University, to the effect that "Hezbollah is spread thin. They are waging so many battles and are positioned on so many fronts." Meanwhile the dual dynamics - losing soldiers abroad, and risking violence back in Lebanon - had sapped the organization's domestic support inside Lebanese Shiite communities. The dynamic has potential strategic implications. Hussain Abdul-Hussain, the Washington bureau chief of the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai, on Wednesday assessed that "Hezbollah's ability to project power relies on the support of Lebanon's Shiites," and that "Hezbollah's resources, both military and civilian, have been strained." The protracted conflict in Syria, which Hezbollah is all but universally understood to have entered at Iran's behest, now risks a situation in which the terror organization will "sooner or later... run out of men to recruit, which will pose a serious problem for the party."

Israeli high school student Avital Boruchovsky is the 2014 European Youth U18 Chess Champion, after winning a four-hour game against his Spanish opponent Jaime Santos Latasa at the Georgian championships. Russia’s Daniil Yuffa was the runner-up in the contest and Valerii Iovcov from Moldova placed third. “I can’t believe it’s real. It was very difficult and I fought till the end,” the 12th-grader from Rehovot was quoted as saying in the Hebrew media. “It will take me some time to let it sink in that I’m the champ.” The 17-year-old Boruchovsky has been tipped by Israeli chess experts as one to watch. In addition to being the European under-18 champion, Boruchovsky is also the youngest Israeli Grand Master, a title he received in January. Boruchovsky plays at the Kfar Saba Chess Club and practices four hours a day. (via Israel21c)

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