Senior Israel Defence Ministry official, Amos Gilad has said that although al-Qaeda elements are gaining a foothold in Syria amidst the chaos of the country’s civil war, the Syria-Iran-Hezbollah axis which preceded it was far more threatening.

Speaking to the Israeli news website Walla, Gilad, who heads the Defence Ministry’s diplomatic defence bureau, said that al-Qaeda operatives are increasingly active in Syria and are “waiting for the opportunity to take over the state.” The country’s internal conflict has raged for the past two years as opposition forces look to topple President Assad’s regime.

Addressing the chaos in Syria, Gilad commented, “You can look now and see al-Qaida in Syria, economic lows, instability, the lack of one address, huge refugee problems… This all presents new types of challenges that are not similar to the military challenge,” which existed before the Syrian civil war.

However, he continued “with all due respect to that threat, it is not the same threat as one posed by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah together, which is much more difficult,” from Israel’s perspective. Syria had been a main conduit of arms to Hezbollah, which benefits significantly from Iranian weaponry, finance and training. Iran and Hezbollah are continuing to back Assad and it is believed that both are providing troops to bolster his rule. Gilad explained that the threat to the Assad regime “is a blow to Iran and Hezbollah together” and that “they admit it and are doing everything so Assad survives.”