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Israel

How ISIS And Iran Are Keeping Israel's Borders Quiet

Turns in the war in Syria, as well as shifting resources and alliances across the Muslim world, mean tensions are easing between Israel and both Hamas and Hezbollah.

All quiet on the Rafah crossing too
All quiet on the Rafah crossing too
Daniel Rubinstein

TEL AVIV — Things may become quieter on the Israeli border for some time to come, as the Syrian conflict has sapped and redirected the money, troops and attention of two of Israel's biggest nemeses.

The Islamist terror group Hezbollah has no intention or capacity to start a long-term armed conflict in Israel because the organization's first priority is to bolster President Bashar al-Assad's control over Syria.

For this, Hezbollah receives military and financial supplies from Iran. But Iranian stocks are running low because of the dramatic drop in oil prices and because of the other fronts Iran has in Yemen and at the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Hezbollah's other priority is the war with ISIS, which has sent affiliates to Lebanon and to other Islamic extremist groups that are fighting Assad.

Furthermore, broad changes in American and Western policies towards Assad's regime are changing the landscape. If it was obvious during the past few years that Americans were funding the rebels fighting to overthrow Assad, it's not so clear anymore.

This policy shift happened after the beheading executions by so-called Jihadi John of ISIS. Additionally, if the choice were between ISIS and Assad, there is little doubt most everybody would support Assad — and not just Russia, which has supported the Syrian leader from the beginning.

In other words, the deteriorating situation on the northern Israeli border is temporary. Opponents of Hezbollah in Lebanon, such as the Christian and Druze leaders, have already said they will not let the organization drag Lebanon into a war and financial catastrophe as it has in past years. The United States would probably try to block the Israeli government if it struck Hezbollah, Assad's biggest defenders, too hard.

It's quiet, even in Gaza

Gaza's border is also unlikely to become heated militarily, and for the same reasons: the loss of political and financial support for the Hamas regime. In the past, Hamas had a long list of supporters who gave the Islamic regime in Gaza money and weapons.

Among them were Syria, Iran, Egypt (then under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood) and until recently Qatar. All of these have almost completely cut off their support, and Hamas was left with only Turkey, which provides limited aid.

Gaza's restoration is taking time because the money isn't arriving, and bureaucratic blocks from Israel are making progress difficult. According to an Israeli organization, just 4% of the building materials that were supposed to enter Gaza in the last four months have indeed made it.

What also weighs heavily on Gaza's economy is the continuous rivalry between the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Hamas leadership in Gaza, since most of the 40,000 Hamas officials haven't received their salaries for the past 10 months. Hamas demands their payments from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who says he has no money because Israel has frozen tax payment transfers collected from Palestinians.

Like in the north, Hamas can't allow itself to reopen an armed conflict with Israel. It has neither money nor political support.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Rail War: How Belarusians Are Secretly Fighting Putin And Lukashenko

It remains unclear whether Belarus' strongman Alexander Lukashenko will join Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Yet as popular support for the war remains low, many in the country are actively fighting back by sabotaging the rail network.

Photo of a railway tracks in Belarus

Railway tracks in Belarus

Anna Akage

On March 24, exactly one month after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Vitaly Melnik set fire to trackside railway electrical cabinets, resulting in massive delays for 22 freight and 17 passenger trains. Earlier this month, a regional court in Belarus convicted Melnik, a 40-year-old man from Minsk, to 13 years in a maximum security colony.

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Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Melnik had also "posted negative messages on the Internet about [Belarusian President] Alexander Lukashenko," announced the prosecutor.

On Dec. 27, three other Belarusian citizens were sentenced to prison for terms of 21 to 23 years. Their crime? Trying to prevent the transportation of military equipment to Ukraine during the early days of the Russian invasion.

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