A Hezbollah fighter stands in front of anti-tank artillery at Juroud Arsal, the Syria-Lebanon border..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Lebanon’s army has become an integral part of Hezbollah’s network, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Tuesday, warning that the next war on the northern border will not be confined to one front, but rather see conflict with both Syria and Lebanon.
Addressing soldiers during a celebratory Sukkot event in his sukka at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Liberman warned that preparation for the next war was of great importance because it will likely include the Lebanese military along with Hezbollah.
“We’re talking about Hezbollah and the Lebanese military and, unfortunately, this is the reality,” Liberman said, adding that the Lebanese Army has lost its independence and become an integral part of Hezbollah’s network.
“Even if the next campaign develops – and it does not matter where it develops, in the North or South – it will immediately become a battle on two fronts,” the defense minister said.
“We are supposed to prepare for every possible scenario, and the new reality also prepares new challenges for us. If we once talked about the Lebanese sector, then there is no more such a sector. There is a northern sector in every development,” he said.
Senior officials from Israel’s defense establishment have repeatedly stated that, while the chance for escalation on the border is low, the smallest incident or a miscalculation by either side has the possibility of leading to conflict.
“Our entire effort is to prevent the next war.
But in the ‘new Middle East,’ the assessments we previously knew are simply irrelevant. The reality is fragile. It can change from moment to moment, from today to tomorrow,” he said.
“Whoever wants peace must prepare for war. And I hope that our enemies on the other side will think carefully about every step taken against the State of Israel so that we will not have to demonstrate the full strength and capabilities of the IDF.”
Israeli officials, including Liberman, have repeatedly voiced concern over the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah and the growing Iranian presence on its borders, stressing that both are redlines for the Jewish State.
France and the United States have provided Lebanon with advanced weaponry. This past summer, the Lebanese Armed Forces received 50 armored vehicles, 40 artillery pieces and 50 grenade launchers from the US as part of an aid package to bolster the country’s defenses against threats posed by terrorist groups.
Saudi Arabia in March halted its military aid program to Beirut after Lebanese President Michel Aoun defended Hezbollah’s arsenal in an interview to on Egyptian TV, calling it “an essential component” of the means to defend Lebanon.
“Hezbollah weapons are not contradictory to the state, but are an essential part in defending the country,” Aoun told Egypt’s CBC satellite channel. “As long as a part of the territory is occupied by Israel, and as long as the army is not powerful enough to fight Israel, we feel the need to maintain the weapons of the resistance to complement the army.”
Israel and Hezbollah fought a deadly 33-day war in 2006 that came to an end under UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which called for disarmament of Hezbollah, withdrawal of the Israeli Army from Lebanon, deployment of the Lebanese Army and an enlarged UN force in the South.
According to IDF assessments, Hezbollah has increased its military capabilities as a result of its fighting in Syria and has spread its troops across the entire Middle East. In addition to a massive arsenal of rockets and missiles, Hezbollah is able to mobilize almost 30,000 fighters and has flouted its tunnel system, complete with ventilation, electricity and rocket launchers.
Some 200 villages in south Lebanon have been turned in “military strongholds” from where Hezbollah fighters are able to observe Israeli soldiers at any moment.
On Saturday, Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper reported that security services had arrested three men who were allegedly gathering intelligence on Hezbollah and passing it to the Mossad.