Hezbollah may use suicide ships in next war, former naval officer warns

Iran “is on the verge of reaching the Mediterranean, including the use of Syrian ports by the Iranian navy."

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January 28, 2018 18:24
3 minute read.
Iranian ship

An Iranian naval ship travels through the Suez Canal near Ismailia, some 120 km (75 miles) north of Cairo February 22, 2011.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The Israeli Navy should anticipate Hezbollah using suicide ships in the next war with the terrorist group, R.-Adm. Prof. Shaul Chorev told The Jerusalem Post.

“Hezbollah will not need to equip themselves with ships like Israel, but we must assume they will use asymmetric warfare to challenge Israeli technology like land-to-sea missiles or suicide ships like you see in Yemen,” Chorev, a former deputy chief of naval operations, said following a special geo-strategy conference organized by University of Haifa’s Research Center for Maritime Policy & Strategy and the Chaikin Chair for Geostrategy.

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Iran and Hezbollah advisers have been aiding Yemen’s Houthi rebels in their fight against the Saudi-led coalition. In January of last year, two Saudi sailors were killed when Houthi rebels rammed the side of a Saudi frigate off the coast of Yemen with a small boat before a suicide bomber detonated the vessel.

According to Chorev, while it is not in Hezbollah’s interest to start a war with the Jewish state, “when you look at their strategy, it is clear that they will target Israeli strategic assets.”

“The next war with Hezbollah could see a focus on the sea,” he warned.

Israel is highly dependent on the sea with more than 90% of Israel’s imports arriving via boat. But according to Chorev, there is a major lack of awareness about the maritime domain, both among government leaders and the public.

Senior naval officers have told the Post that Hezbollah is a “clear and major enemy” that continues to grow in terms of battlefield experience and their arsenal of advanced weaponry from Iran which has expanded its presence in the eastern Mediterranean due to the civil war in Syria.

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“Iran – which supports the Assad regime in Syria – participates in the war alongside Russia and has exploited the situation in order to upgrade its status in the region to almost that of a regional superpower,” Chorev wrote in the center’s 2017-2018 Maritime Strategic Assessment for Israel.

Iran “is on the verge of reaching the Mediterranean, including the use of Syrian ports by the Iranian navy,” he added.

“Iranian ports in the eastern Mediterranean are a real risk for Israel,” Chorev said, stressing that the US and Russia must be persuaded to stop the Iranian Navy from gaining a foothold in Syria.

With fighting raging in neighboring Syria and because of the continued decline of the US involvement in the eastern Mediterranean, the Russian Navy has increased its presence in the area over the past few years.

“The Russians have come into the Middle East taking over from the Americans who have neglected the eastern Mediterranean,” Chorev said, adding that the Russians may limit the operational activity of Israel’s navy.

Similar to the deconfliction mechanism in place between Moscow and Jerusalem over the skies of Syria, Israeli officials have stated that while the navy does not plan to expand any sort of cooperation with the Russian Navy, there is clear communication between the two for preventative safety reasons.

The Israeli Navy is relatively small compared to other IDF corps, but it has a significant amount of territory to protect since the expansion of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) from 40 miles (65 km.) to 150 miles (240 km.) four years ago.

The navy is also tasked with securing the natural gas drilling rigs that are in Israel’s EEZ, clear targets for enemies on Israel’s northern border. The IDF believes that Hezbollah has long-range missiles that can hit the rigs, which supply a large amount of the electricity used in Israel.

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