A picture of Hezbollah commander Mohamad Issa is seen in Arab-Salim, January 19, 2015.
Ali Hashisho / Courtesy Reuters

Israel’s killing this week of six Hezbollah fighters and a top Iranian general in a helicopter raid in Syria is the latest and boldest attack by the Jewish state against the Shia party in recent years. Hezbollah has vowed to retaliate, and many of its supporters, urging the party to respond swiftly and forcefully, have advised Israel to “prepare its shelters.” If the three-decade history of confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah is any guide, the latter is likely to strike back to protect its credibility. But that is not inevitable. The Syrian conflict has transformed Hezbollah, arguably turning it into a more cautious foe of the Jewish state.

Hezbollah is a survivor. Since its formation in the early 1980s, the Shia party has made it through three high-intensity military conflicts with Israel, the assassination of several of its top leaders, the departure of its Syrian patron from Lebanon in 2005,

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  • BILAL Y. SAAB is Senior Fellow for Middle East Security at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council. DANIEL BYMAN is a Professor in the Security Studies Program at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a Senior Fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. Follow him on Twitter @dbyman.
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