Hezbollah presence in southern Syria a big threat to Israel, US Joint Chiefs chair says

(JTA) — Gen. Joseph Dunford, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman visiting Israel, said Hezbollah’s presence in southern Syria is a major threat to Israel because it “would give Israel two fronts to deal with” should the Lebanese terrorist group attack.

The Israelis have been pressing the threat by the Lebanese Hezbollah, which Dunford said now fields a conventional force armed with missiles, rockets, artillery, armored vehicles and tanks.

This week’s visit is Dunford’s third to Israel, which he called a close partner. He said coming to Israel “as a matter of routine is important.”

Dunford told reporters traveling with him that he met with Israeli military officials and discussed issues of mutual concern in the region, as well as about Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the presence of the Islamic State in the tri-border area of Israel, Syria and Jordan, according to the Department of Defense News.

Dunford also said that the Israeli officials are pleased with the progress being made against ISIS and believe it will be defeated.

“Their concern is about the day after ISIS is defeated in Raqqa and the long-term political structure in Syria and the role that Iran would play in Syria and the region,” he said.

Dunford said dealing with the Iranian threat network must also take priority. The threat includes the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force and the support it provides for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The general said he also talked to the Israelis about bringing stability to Syria in order to allow refugees from the war-torn country to return home.

The Russians would like the United States to be a part of the group of nations “deconflicting” inside Syria, “but no decision has been made,” the general said.

“What we are doing now is prudently talking to military planners, and in our conversations with the Israelis we are asking about the proposal and what it would look like on the ground,” Dunford said. “It is fair to say that the Israelis would want to make sure that their security concerns are addressed.”

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