Twenty Years Later, Israel & Hezbollah Getting Ready For Next Round Of Warfare
By PNW StaffMay 27, 2020
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Twenty years after Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, the cycle of conflict appears to be ready to repeat as both Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah prepare for the war they know is coming.
As both countries reflect on the lessons learned, Hezbollah now finds itself as a major player in Lebanese politics instead of the once-small guerrilla fighting force it was in the 1980's. Hezbollah is now stronger than ever and has expanded it's operations to include the Syrian Golan border. It is directly backed and supplied arms by Iran who is eager to get more powerful weapons into the hands of the group in order to split Israel's attention to different fronts.
Israel has warned that in any future conflict it will hold the government of Lebanon a fair target, something that Israel tried to avoid in the previous conflict. Lebanon's government and Hezbollah are currently facing an economic crisis and there have already been numerous protests in the street. Some experts believe they may try to deflect some of that anger towards Israel but many Lebanese are concerned that such a war could put the country into even more of a dire economic situation.
The Israeli air force has attacked Hezbollah targets in neighboring Syria on an almost monthly basis for over a year as it engages in a policy of pushing anything supported by Iran out of Syria. It has also drilled for a potential invasion of Lebanon with the purpose of demonstrating it has learned the lessons of the month long war in 2006 with Hezbollah that left Israel embarrassed by it's virtual draw with the group.
"We are preparing seriously for the next war. We're not taking any shortcuts because we understand we have to be extremely strong to defeat the enemy," said Col. Israel Friedler, an Israeli commander who has been overseeing a weeks-long exercise simulating war with Hezbollah at a base in northern Israel.
Syria has accused Israel of carrying out at least seven airstrikes in the past two months alone against Iranian/Hezbollah targets, while Israeli warplanes and reconnaissance drones have been violating Lebanese airspace on almost daily basis in recent weeks.
Hezbollah routinely threatens to strike Israel and has been building up its own forces while threatening to invade Israel if provoked. Last week during a speech to mark Quds Day Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said all Jews must leave Israel, saying the whole region, "from the river to the sea," is the property of the Palestinians. With Israel expected to launch efforts to annex Judea and Samaria after July 1st it may be the excuse Nasrallah has been looking to turn his words into actions.
During the 2006 war, the group launched some 4,000 rockets into Israel, most of them unguided projectiles with limited ranges. Today, Israeli officials say Hezbollah possesses some 130,000 rockets and missiles capable of striking virtually anywhere in Israel. They say it has sophisticated anti-tank missiles, night-vision equipment and cyber warfare capabilities.
It is expected the next war will involve much larger operations and that Israel will have no choice but to cross the border to halt Hezbollah fire. One Israeli commander commented that battling an enemy entrenched in civilian areas is like "fighting with handcuffs on," but insisted that his troops are ready.
"It won't be easy. But without a doubt it will be much harder for them. They don't have the means to stop us,".
Hezbollah has also vowed to cross into Israel in any future war. The IDF exposed and destroyed six of the terror group's attack tunnels last year, which Israel says Hezbollah planned to use as part of a surprise opening gambit to take over parts of Israel's northern Galilee, killing civilians, causing carnage and mayhem, planting the group's flag and, most importantly, filming it all to devastating real-world and propaganda effect.
Israel has been reinforcing it's borders and using advanced technology to prevent further tunnels but there are still fears Hezbollah will find a way inside the country to launch a number of guerrilla attacks.
The greatest challenge that may face Israel in any future conflict is Hezbollah's efforts to convert existing massive stocks of rockets into advanced missiles. These weapons are seen as a far greater threat than Hezbollah's current, already troubling arsenal of roughly 130,000 rockets and missiles.
The group's existing weapons, which have no guidance systems, are considered "statistic" rockets, as large numbers of them must be fired at a given target in order to ensure that at least one will hit it. This means that Israeli air defenses don't need to intercept every incoming projectile as most will land harmlessly in unpopulated areas.
Precision missiles, on the other hand, are far more accurate, so even if Israeli air defense batteries shoot down 99 percent of the incoming attack, the remaining one percent will almost assuredly hit a target, whether a military installation, a natural gas extraction platform or an apartment building.
Hezbollah has specifically warned Israel it would target it's nuclear reactors in Dimona to make it reign fire on earth as a punishment for any invasion of Lebanese territory. Nasrallah has insisted that Israel has been deterred from attacking Lebanon by the perception that it would pay too high a price for such an attack
While there may not be plans for a war tomorrow, both sides are aware that a small miscalculation by one party or the other, leading to a response, a response to a response, and so on could lead to the conflict they are all preparing for.