150,000 rockets and 50,000 fighters: highly armed and full of hatred: Israel’s most dangerous enemy lurks in the north.
The situation in northern Israel is getting worse. Attacks from a known enemy are increasing. A war on multiple fronts is becoming increasingly likely. Hezbollah is increasingly becoming a major problem for Israel there.
The Israeli Air Force continues its attacks on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. Local media report that these are the heaviest bombings to date since the major attack by Hamas terrorists on Israel a week ago. According to official information, more than 1,400 people were killed and around 3,000 injured in the terrorist group’s massacre. Hamas also took 155 people hostage.
In parallel with the airstrikes, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) ground troops are preparing for a ground offensive to “destroy” Hamas, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it. An operation that, due to its complexity, will tie up many IDF resources. Another enemy of Israel could benefit from this: the terrorist militia Hezbollah.
Hezbollah attacks intensify
Since the Hamas attack, experts, secret services and the military have also been paying attention to the north of Israel. The attacks there have now increased by the Shiite Hezbollah (Arabic for “Party of God”). From Lebanon, the militia attacks Israeli posts and, among other things, uses anti-tank bullets against Israeli units. The terrorist group targeted a military camp and tried to hit a plane. Bullets flew at military bases. Combat drones are said to have been used.
How serious the situation on Israel’s northern border already is is shown by the warning to residents near the border area about a possible incursion by armed fighters from Lebanon. People are urged to get to safety. The IDF has also set up a four-kilometer-wide exclusion zone in the border area.
Hezbollah is the much stronger opponent
A look back a few months shows how real the danger of the second front is. Only in April of this year did Hezbollah fire on Israel more heavily than it had done since 2006. The trigger was an IDF raid on the Temple Mount during Ramadan. Around 350 people were arrested. Eyewitnesses reported that Palestinians barricaded themselves in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, setting off fireworks and throwing stones. The IDF responded with tear gas, stun grenades and batons to clear the mosque. Rocket attacks from Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip followed a few days later.
After the terrorist attack by Hamas, the conflict has now flared up again. However, while Hamas is considered to be less well-equipped but could involve the IDF in resource-consuming urban warfare, Hezbollah, a much stronger opponent, awaits in the north.
Hezbollah rockets could even hit Tel Aviv
According to experts, the militia financed, trained and well-equipped by Iran has greater military effectiveness than the inefficient Lebanese army, writes Islamic and religious scholar Christian Funke in an article for the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS).
Hezbollah receives most of its weapons, including kamikaze drones and rockets, from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. In particular, the arsenal of ballistic weapons has grown significantly since 2006, says Funke. Hezbollah fighters are also said to have learned how to build drones and missiles from the Revolutionary Guard.
Its extensive weapons arsenal, including anti-aircraft systems and long-range missiles, makes Hezbollah the greatest threat to Israel in the current crisis. It can hit any city in Israel with Iranian Fateh missiles. The Fateh-110, a ballistic missile that Ukrainian and Israeli intelligence agencies say Putin is also targeting, has a range of at least 300 kilometers. They can carry a 500 kilogram warhead. The more modern Fateh-360 has a shorter range, but reaches a speed of up to 5,000 kilometers per hour.
Experts estimate the number of rockets in Hezbollah’s arsenal to be up to 150,000, including around 5,000 medium and long-range rockets with a range of up to 500 kilometers. This means that even the greater Tel Aviv area could be fired upon from southern Lebanon.
“Iron Dome” could have problems
Yoel Guzansky from the Israeli think tank INSS is watching the escalation in the north with concern. According to the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, he points out that the Israeli Iron Dome missile defense system would be severely challenged in the event of massive fire on two fronts. The military expert believes that Hezbollah has a much larger arsenal of weapons than Hamas. If the Shiite militia makes use of this, hundreds of deaths on the Israeli side are to be feared.
The terrorist group has “more firepower than most European countries combined,” says Jakov Amidror from the Begin Sadat Institute for Strategic Studies in an interview with the Jerusalem Post. The Center for International Strategic Studies in Washington also describes Hezbollah as the “most heavily armed non-state actor” of the world. It is “a militia that is trained like a regular army and equipped like a state.”
The militia’s personnel strength is also considerable. With around 20,000 active fighters and 30,000 reservists, Hezbollah is significantly stronger than it was 17 years ago, when Israel tried to weaken the militia. During the Lebanon War, the IDF bombed southern Beirut and other Hezbollah positions. 500 fighters were killed. The trigger at the time: the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, the murder of three others and the rocket fire on Israeli cities. Back then, too, Israel fought on two fronts and sent ground troops into the Gaza Strip.
Expert advises preemptive strike against Hezbollah
Or Yissachar, a former member of the elite “8200” unit of the Israeli military intelligence service and Iran expert at the think tank “Israel Defense And Security Forum”, currently does not believe that Hezbollah is planning an attack from Lebanon. He told the “Bild” newspaper: “Tehran will keep Hezbollah as a joker in the back if Israel or someone else attacks Iran.” That is exactly the purpose of Hezbollah: to prevent Israel from attacking Iran.
Yissachar, on the other hand, recommends a joint preemptive strike by the USA and Israel to take this joker away from Iran. “We learned from Gaza: You can’t live with a threat like that. “You can’t rely on your military strength, you can’t rely on deterrence,” Yissachar explains his proposal. It is not enough to prevent attacks or attack arms shipments from Iran in Syria. Iran should not be allowed to have this joker. “We must now use the lessons we learned with Hamas against Hezbollah in Lebanon.”