IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Just days after an IDF unit was hit by a Kornet missile fired by Hezbollah from a significant distance, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz warned Sunday that Israel’s border villages on the northern front must be better defended from similar threats as well as attack tunnels.
The clear implication was that Hezbollah now has long-range attack capabilities “even from kilometers away” and, besides firing inaccurate rockets, now has advanced missiles like the Kornet and attack tunnels that have radically altered the danger it can pose to border villages with virtually no warning.
Last week, Hezbollah terrorists launched five or six Kornet missiles from a distance of at least four kilometers from their targets, striking two IDF vehicles as they drove two kilometers from the border and killing two soldiers.
A military D-Max vehicle containing a company commander and a soldier from the Givati Brigade was the first vehicle hit, killing those on board. This prompted all of those inside an IDF jeep behind it to quickly evacuate their vehicle.
Gantz said that in the past one could count on observing movement on the border above ground to anticipate attacks but that has changed with the new long-range capabilities and attack tunnels.
He called on the political echelon to provide the IDF with the funding it needs to protect border communities from the new threats.
The northern front, he said, could not be allowed to ignite and become a greater peril.
Gantz, who is set to be replaced this month by Maj.- Gen. Gadi Eisenkott when his four-year term as IDF chief of staff comes to an end, made the comments at a conference in memory of former IDF chief Amnon Lipkin-Shahak at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
Separately, Gantz said Israel should be wary of Palestinian attempts to bring war crimes allegations against IDF soldiers at the International Criminal Court. The IDF, he emphasized, is working hard to prevent this problem with what he called unprecedented legal involvement before selecting targets.
“We should be proud law is part of our targeting calculus,” he said, but “others need to know when we delay targeting, rockets fall.”
Turning to the Middle East as a whole, the IDF chief said the international community cannot turns its back on the wide range of security threats engulfing the region which, at the very least, undermine energy and trade stability globally.
The region, he said, is in the midst of a historic change that is seeing the borders carved out by the Europeans after World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire crumble.
The Middle East has become a battlefield between moderate nations, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia and extremist jihadist groups, as well as the axis of Iran, Hezbollah and Syrian President Bashar Assad, he said, adding that the world must help build local forces to counter the jihadist threat. Groups such as Hezbollah and Islamic State, he said, have become so technically advanced that they are semi-armies, and not terror organizations.
Though he said these divisions and the threats they pose were not connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he stressed that Israel still must be wary of Palestinian efforts to undermine its legitimacy in the international arena.Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.