What is the likelihood of war as Israel marks 69 years of independence?

It's business as usual for the group that was already digging tunnels into Israel 10 years before Hamas.

By
April 30, 2017 05:40
3 minute read.
Hezbollah members

Openly armed Hezbollah members spotted near the Israeli border.. (photo credit: Courtesy)

There’s nothing new on Israel’s northern border. Last Sunday, a senior officer in the IDF Northern Command briefed military correspondents on Hezbollah activity on Israel’s Lebanese border. Conspiratorial theorists rushed immediately to reach their twisted notions.

They figured the briefing was being held due to the fierce power struggle that had once again flared up between Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon – with the backing of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – and Finance Minister Yair Lapid over the defense budget. As if this were just another one of the defense ministry’s media spins aimed at reigniting Israelis’ fear of immediate confrontation with Hezbollah, to enhance its demand for budget increase.

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But the truth is actually surprisingly simple. The briefing had been scheduled two weeks previously and turned out to be a fairly routine rundown of information facilitated by the IDF Spokesman for senior officers from the various military corps and for military correspondents and commentators.

More importantly, the senior officer giving the briefing did not tell us anything we didn’t already know.

He didn’t speak of the dangers of an imminent war or of an eruption of violence on the northern border.

On the contrary, he stated that there was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about activity on the Lebanese side of the border.

It’s true, he said, that over the last few weeks there had been a slight modification that could possibly indicate a more proactive and daring style on the part of Hezbollah fighters near the border fence. They don’t try anymore to hide the fact that they are armed, which is in violation of the agreement reached at the conclusion of the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

“Although this is not a new phenomenon,” the officer admitted, “lately they have become more daring.”

The officer also reiterated the fact that, contrary to claims made by residents of the Galilee, the IDF has not gathered any intel about tunnels that have been dug under Israeli territory.

Does Hezbollah dig tunnels? “It is likely that they are indeed engaged in such activity.”

Let’s not forget that Hezbollah predated Hamas by about ten years in what the IDF calls “underground mediation” – the warfare beneath the ground.

And neither is it breaking news that Hezbollah is continuously growing stronger.

From Israel’s point of view, however, Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian civil war has its pros and cons, both advantages and disadvantages.

The advantage is that the Lebanese Shi’ite organization is bleeding on the battlefields of Syria. Hundreds (maybe even a thousand) of its fighters have been killed and thousands injured.

On the other hand, however, Hezbollah has also acquired tremendous military and operational experience as a result of this fighting, and it now has a large number of trained warriors at the ready for a war against Israel if and when that time arrives.

If war were to break out, the IDF is aware that Hezbollah would try to replicate its successes from Syria and send a few hundred fighters to capture an Israeli rural community or conquer a mountaintop. Is this a military secret? No. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in so many words himself during one of his televised appearances.

So, for now, as the senior IDF officer said, “The situation on Israel’s northern border is quiet and calm. Although this status could change at any moment, I am not of the opinion that Hezbollah will launch an offensive against us tomorrow morning.”

Translated by Hannah Hochner.


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