A few months ago, after the IDF began building a concrete wall between Metulla
and Lebanon, an Israeli observation post spotted a group of men gathered on a
rooftop just over the northern border.
A closer look identified one of
the men as the commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in southern
Several of the other men were later identified as senior
Hezbollah operatives, also from southern Lebanon.
This story, senior IDF
officers said on Thursday, illustrates one of the many new challenges Israel
will face in a future conflict with Hezbollah and particularly what will it do
when it comes to the Lebanese Army.
“It will largely depend on them,” one
officer said. “If LAF soldiers open fire we will respond with all of our force,
but if they remain in their positions we will not attack them.”
after the Second Lebanon War, the IDF looks today at Lebanon on two
On the one hand, there is no question that for residents of
northern Israel these have been the quietest six years in over four decades. On
the other hand, Hezbollah is building an unprecedented military capability with
tens of thousands of rockets alongside advanced infantry
While the IDF wants to retain this quiet, it is concerned
by a number of catalysts – mostly external – which it assesses could spark a
conflict between Israel and Lebanon that neither side really
First, there is always the possibility that Hezbollah will attack
along the border, either by kidnapping a soldier or by attacking Israeli towns.
This decision could be made out of frustration with the continued failure to
strike at Israel overseas – demonstrated by the recent thwarted attacks in
Thailand, Georgia, India and Azerbaijan.
Second, changes in the Lebanese
Army have also raised concern in Israel. Lebanon officially abolished the
military draft a couple of years ago, leading to a major increase in the number
of Shi’ites, who are generally poorer, serving in the military. This means more
sympathy for Hezbollah in the army as well as a stronger chance that it will
join in a war against Israel.
The two external catalysts that Israel
believes have the potential to set off a war are a military strike against Iran
– not dependant on who attacks – or an Israeli assault against a convoy carrying
advanced weapons from Syria to Lebanon.
For these reasons, the IDF
convened local and foreign press on Thursday to send a clear message to
Hezbollah, with the aim of persuading it to refrain from doing something that
could lead to a war.
The IDF threats – one officer said that the
Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in 2009 would pale in
comparison to what will happen in Lebanon – should not be taken
Due to Hezbollah’s impressive firepower – it is believed to have
more than 50,000 rockets and the ability to fire over 1,000 a day – Israel will
have to be extremely aggressive to end a war as quickly as possible.
this means is that in a future war the IDF will immediately operate from the air
as well as on the ground, with the aim of capturing as much territory as
possible to prevent rocket fire into its cities. With Hezbollah positions
believed to be mostly located inside villages in southern Lebanon, the fighting
will be fierce within urban areas.
But there would be another purpose to
Israel’s aggressiveness. Unlike the war six years ago that ended without a clear
victor, next time Israel will want to make sure that Hezbollah and the larger
Arab and Muslim world know who wins.