How dangerous is ISIS to Israel?
The Islamic State group has killed thousands of people since it declared an Islamic caliphate in June 2014, with the city of Raqqa as its de facto capital. It captured tremendous international attention by swiftly conquering large swaths of land and by releasing gruesome pictures of beheadings and other means of executions. In Israel, concern is increasing as ISIS nears Israeli borders.
Yet, several analyses of the threat ISIS poses to Israel seem to be unnecessary alarmist. ISIS is primarily successful where there is a political void. Although the offensives in Syria and Iraq showed the Islamic State’s tactical capabilities, they were directed against failed states with weakened militaries. When and where ISIS has met well organized opposition by non-state entities, such as that posed by Kurdish militias, the group’s performance has been less convincing.
The attack on an Egyptian town in the Sinai Peninsula conducted by the local ISIS branch with several hundred fighters — an item well covered in the Israeli media — is not an exception to this assessment. ISIS has shown tactical ability in employing large numbers of militiamen in an area where, for several years, the Egyptian army has encountered problems in enforcing state sovereignty.
Nevertheless, the Egyptian army eventually succeeded in repelling the attack and in killing hundreds of attackers. A determined Egyptian regime put up a good fight against the terrorists in Sinai. Despite the fact that the Egyptian army is not well-trained in scenarios posed by groups like ISIS, and despite the army’s preoccupation with the delta region ( the threat in Sinai is considered peripheral), the Egyptian army is still likely to be successful in containing the ISIS challenge.
The difference between a real army and the forces in Syria and Iraq that ISIS has encountered should be recognized. Generally, non-state actors are less dangerous than states. Only states can develop nuclear weapons. Non-state actors usually do not possess airplanes, heavy artillery and tanks that can cause great damage. Since they are Iranian proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas are not an exception to this rule because they have been endowed with destructive capabilities, such as missiles, by a state. Moreover, they have secured almost exclusive control over a piece of territory.
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