(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Almost every Shi’ite village or neighborhood in southern Lebanon is being used by Hezbollah fighters, according to Brig.-Gen. Ram Yavne, head of the IDF Strategic Division.
One civilian village pointed out by Yavne called Chakra, which has 4,000 Shi’ite inhabitants, “reflects the situation of every Shi’ite neighborhood, town, or village in Lebanon. In that village, 1/3 of the homes are military assets of Hezbollah.”
Speaking at The Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference, Yavne told the crowd that while it is also a military challenge, “this use of civilians as human shields should be condemned” by the world.
According to Yavne, the Middle East until 2010 was like the one that was seen on a map – a region of states with set borders. But six years later, the international community is dealing with various non-state actors, some quite extreme.
The region, he said, is overrun with four major political rifts, each one clashing with the other: the Iranian-Shi’ite camp, the Sunni camp headed by Saudi Arabia and including Egypt, the global jihad camp which includes the Islamic State and al-Qaida, and the Muslim Brotherhood camp. In addition to those four political camps, the last two years has also seen the intervention of the United States and Russia in the region.
So where does Israel stand? “In an almost miraculous way, Israel is somehow in the eye of the storm,” Yavne told the crowd, adding that the main challenge was how to remain there, while at the same time remaining prepared and ready for any escalation.
“Escalations can be very quick, so we must prepare ourselves to be ready for an immediate response,” he said. “We must then be ready to defend all of our borders, on the ground, in the sky, on the sea, underground and online. We must also be prepared to carry out a two-front offensive in parallel.”
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While Israel is strong, the Middle East is still an area where there is a proliferation of weapons for the various conflicts in the region. According to Yavne, the threats as seen from the Israeli perspective are divided into a wide spectrum which include nonconventional weapons as well as lone wolf attacks and cyber attacks.
And there remains the continued threat posed by hybrid groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.
Nevertheless, Israel sees a few opportunities in the region due in part to the upheaval taking place, the increase of cooperation over common threats, as well as the weakening of some of Israel’s enemies. Moreover, Israel is trying to widen its strategic depth by continuing to increase strategic cooperation with neighboring Egypt and Jordan.
Pointing to the infighting in neighboring states as well as the fact that Israeli deterrence, both strategic, operational and tactical remains strong, Yavne told the crowd that “we cannot speak today of any current major military threat posed by a state,” adding that “we don’t predict or assess that there is any threat right now.”
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