Four years ago, on the eve of the Second Lebanon War, the IDF had just a few hundred designated Hizbullah targets throughout Lebanon. About 90 of them were longrange missiles that had been stored in the homes of top Hizbullah operatives and these were destroyed by the air force within 36 minutes on the first night of the war.
While by the end of the war, the air force had bombed close to 8,000 targets, the fact that it knew about only a few hundred before the war partially led to the failure to stop the rocket fire and fatally hurt the guerrilla group.
On Wednesday, top IDF officers revealed that the air force today has
thousands of designated targets it can bomb if war were to break out.
Some of them, like those that appear on the maps of the southern
Lebanese village of el-Khiam that were declassified on Wednesday, are of
arms caches, command-and-control centers and rocket launchers; others
are likely longrange rockets, like the highly accurate M600 or Scuds,
which Syria recently transferred to Lebanon.
In the four years that have passed since the Second Lebanon War, both
the IDF and Hizbullah have been busy studying their mistakes and
implementing the necessary lessons. The IDF, for example, significantly
increased training regimens, developed and procured active-protection
systems for tanks and armored personnel carriers and is investing in
building new urban warfare training centers due to an understanding that
the next conflict would be fought in the narrow streets of southern
Hizbullah, senior officers said this week, mostly consists of a lot more
of the same encountered in 2006, except today its command posts, rocket
launchers and guerrilla forces are deployed inside villages and not in
the notorious “nature reserves” it had created in the forests of
southern Lebanon before 2006.
THERE ARE two main reasons for Hizbullah’s change in strategy. The first
is the presence of UNIFIL, which immediately following the war was
beefed up to some 13,000 soldiers, throughout the open areas in southern
Lebanon. These soldiers operate throughout southern Lebanon, but only
in open areas, claiming that their mandate does not allow them to
independently enter villages.
To enter a village, even after receiving intelligence regarding a
Hizbullah arms cache, the peacekeeping force needs to coordinate ahead
of time with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), which Israel suspects in
previous cases of having tipped off Hizbullah. In other cases, LAF
simply does not want to clash with the more powerful Hizbullah.
The second reason is Hizbullah’s desire to draw IDF troops into the 160
or so densely populated villages in southern Lebanon. This is a similar
strategy to the one employed by Hamas in the Gaza Strip during Operation
Cast Lead, which resulted in the Goldstone report and the continued
international criticism which has caused far greater damage than any
Kassam rocket fired from Gaza.
In a 2008 newspaper interview, OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi
Eizenkot explained what will happen in a new conflict.
The IDF’s plan for a future war, he said, would be based on the “Dahiya
doctrine” – in reference to Hizbullah’s stronghold in Beirut which was
flattened by IAF smart bombs during the war.
“What happened in the Dahiya neighborhood of Beirut in 2006 will happen
in every village from which Israel is fired on,” Eizenkot said. “We will
apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and
destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages,
they are military bases.”
More recently, at a conference in Tel Aviv, Eizenkot explained that the
IDF will first attack immediate threats, and will then begin warning the
civilian population throughout southern Lebanon to vacate their homes
ahead of a ground offensive and aerial bombardment.
“I am convinced that this mode of operations is moral and is the right
way to operate,” he said. “Hizbullah is the one that is turning these
hundreds of villages into war zones.”
The heavy deployment inside the villages serves as a major challenge,
but some in the IDF hope it could also deter Hizbullah from launching
another offensive. In 2006, Hizbullah came under harsh domestic
criticism for provoking a war which ruined Lebanon’s usually profitable
summer tourist season.
This is even truer today when Lebanon’s economy grew by 8 percent over
the past year and more than 2 million tourists, mostly from Arab
Either way, the IDF’s decision to declassify intelligence information on
Hizbullah should be viewed as the opening shot in a public relations
campaign ahead of the next war. The village chosen to present to the
media was el-Khiam, which should more appropriately be called a town –
it has a population of close to 25,000.
Predominantly Shi’ite, el-Khiam was, before the IDF’s withdrawal from
Lebanon in 2000, home to a detention center where Hizbullah operatives
were interrogated. It is located about 4 kilometers from the border.
The maps and videos declassified by the IDF show the homes that
Hizbullah has taken over and used to store weapons and establish bunkers
and command-and-control centers. It also revealed the location of
improvised explosive devices, some of them weighing up to half a ton,
mostly at the entrance to the village.
The declassification is aimed at deterring Hizbullah from attacking by
demonstrating the IDF’s deep penetration of its most carefully- guarded
secrets. The IDF is also hoping to achieve a diplomatic victory. It
recently sent a delegation of top officers to UN headquarters in New
York to present the evidence to foreign diplomats. Northern Command also
presented the evidence to UNIFIL commander Maj.-Gen. Alberto Asarta
The release of the information also results from the lessons learned
from the Goldstone report and the handling of the Gaza-bound flotilla in
late May. In both cases, Israel felt that it was justified in taking
action, but was genuinely frustrated by the world’s decision to ignore
its case. As a result, it is now preparing the world for what will
happen in the event of a new war. By showing the public the Hizbullah
positions in villages, they will likely better understand why there will
be so much devastation throughout Lebanon.
Israel’s main problem with Hizbullah continues to be its unprecedented
military buildup. In 2006, Hizbullah had 14,000 fighters compared to
30,000 today; it had 15,000 rockets compared to 40,000 today.
And in 2006, just 10,000 of them were in southern Lebanon compared to
It also has long-range missiles, such as the Fateh-110, 220 mm. and 320
mm. Katyushas and the Syrian-made M600 – which has a solid propellant
and has a range of 250 km., a 500 kg. warhead and is equipped with a
sophisticated guidance system. Hizbullah also recently received Scud
missiles with a range of about 300 km.
Israel’s hands are pretty much tied when it comes to stopping the
rearmament. Several months ago, when the government debated the possible
bombing of a weapons convoy from Syria to Lebanon, the plan was nixed
due to the fear that war would erupt – this according to foreign
In closed-door meetings, Eizenkot has said a number of times that it is
almost impossible to deter a state or terror organization from building
up its military. “It is however possible to deter that state or
organization from using it,” he said.
That is exactly what Israel is hoping for.
While it continues to prepare for war, it is no secret that the past
four years have been the quietest in decades along the northern border.
During Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 – when the IDF took up
positions in all major cities in the West Bank – Hizbullah fired 600
rockets and mortar shells and 300 anti-tank missiles into Israel.
Fourteen people were wounded. During Operation Cast Lead, Hizbullah did
not fire a single rocket.
While deterrence can temporarily postpone a conflict, it ultimately
wears off. That is why Israel continues to take action against
Hizbullah. On the one hand, Israeli officials speak publicly about the
destruction expected in Lebanon but the IDF also operates openly along
the border, sometimes even beyond the border fence but within the Blue
Line border which does not always correspond with the physical barrier.
These crossings of the fence take place almost every day and are meant
to send Hizbullah a clear message – Israel is ready.