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Israel Is Preparing For A Big War With Hezbollah

October 9, 2014

Israeli Merkava 4 column

Last week, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, the outgoing Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), spoke to the Jerusalem Post about current events influencing Israel’s security outlook.

In the course of the interview, Lt. Gen. Gantz revealed that contingencies have been prepared against Hezbollah, the paramilitary group entrenched in southern Lebanon.

When asked what kind of threat was posed by Hezbollah’s capabilities, Gantz candidly explained the IDF’s response should another war begin:

We will take Lebanon and knock it back 70 or 80 years, in all areas , and we’ll see how that plays out. And it could also turn out that we’ll need to capture Lebanese territory. There are no surprises here, but rather things we are preparing for, year after year, season after season, staring the challenge in the eyes.”

Is [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah still deterred?

Yes. He is also busy, and stretched thin on various fronts, but I think he understands very well what will happen to Lebanon if he starts something with us.”

Gantz’ remarks were published two days before another tit for tat exchange along Israel’s sensitive northern border. On October 7, a pair of IEDs were detonated in Mount Dov, which is Israeli territory, wounding two soldiers.

The IDF retaliated with a short artillery barrage on Hezbollah positions across the border.

The IDF’s longstanding grudge against Hezbollah dates back to the Lebanese Civil War from 1975 to 1990.

Emerging as a grass-roots paramilitary group among the marginalized Shiites of southern Lebanon, Hezbollah immediately found long-term sponsors in Syria and Iran, who both used it as a credible proxy force to undermine Israel.

Hezbollah’s spirited resistance against Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon until 2000 further bolstered its image and value to its sponsors.

The turning point, however, was the anticlimactic 2006 war, where the full force of the IDF sought to dismember Hezbollah. Unfortunately, Hezbollah was prepared for a long campaign, having dug robust fortifications and stockpiled anti-tank missiles and rockets. The latter used for non-stop barrages on Israel’s cities and towns.

Since the ambiguous outcome of 2006, where the IDF withdrew and Hezbollah began replenishing its battered ranks, Israel waged four small campaigns against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The latest was the 70-day long Operation Protective Edge between July and August this year.

Each of these short conflicts allowed the IDF to hone its capabilities for another war in Lebanon, from where Hezbollah is currently directing its activities in neighboring Syria.

Over the years, the 176,000-strong IDF has consciously transformed its order of battle with a leaner and more technologically reliant (consider the Iron Dome) organization.

Hezbollah, on the other hand, is hoping it has enough asymmetrical firepower at its disposal to deter its arch foe.