IAF chief: We will attack Hezbollah, Hamas targets in civilian areas if necessary

Amir Eshel explains why Israel has little choice to act if its enemies use civilians as human shields.

June 20, 2015 21:13
2 minute read.
iaf aerial show

IAF planes fly during an aerial show over the Mediterranean Sea as seen from a Tel Aviv beach, as part of Independence Day celebrations, April 23, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Israel Air Force chief Major-General Amir Eshel warned Hezbollah and Hamas in a recent interview with German newspaper Die Zeit that if the situation required, Israel would not hesitate to attack its military command centers situated in civilian buildings in Gaza or Lebanon.

"The strategy of these two organizations [Hezbollah and Hamas] is to wage war on Israel as a way to question our legitimacy," Eshel said, continuing, "so years ago they began to transfer military infrastructure to residential areas thereby turning the population into a human shield."

The Die Zeit interview with Eshel was reported by Channel 2. 

"Many villages in Lebanon are built anew to turn into army bases with underground  missile sites, and ammunition storage. This is how things are in some areas of Beirut as well," he said.

"What are we supposed to do? Sit quietly?" the IAF chief queried.

Eshel said that the IDF uses various means to warn civilians about attacks including sending text messages in order to give them a chance to take shelter in a safe area.

"We also warn civilians by using small light explosives prior to an attack," Eshel added, emphasizing that the "IDF would not show restraint due to the immoral war tactics of our enemies." 

At the beginning of the month, a senior military source said in the event of a new conflict with Hezbollah, the IDF would seek to evacuate more than a million civilians in south Lebanon within 24 hours before proceeding to strike thousands of Hezbollah targets in some 240 villages and built-up regions.

Large-scale Hezbollah rocket and missile fire would be met with civilian evacuations, massive Israeli aerial strikes, followed by a ground offensive, the source said.

Discussing a new strategy for dealing with Hezbollah’s battle doctrine of using civilian built-up areas as military bases to rain death and destruction upon Israel, the source spoke as the IDF approached the conclusion of a week long drill simulating conflict on multiple fronts, including the Israel Air Force practicing striking of large numbers of targets and simulating conflict in northern combat arenas.

“If we have no choice, we have to evacuate 1 million, 1.5 million residents in Lebanon, and act,” the source said. “Hezbollah should not plan to fire on us and try to kill our civilians, and expect that we would respond by acting according to standards it seems to think only exist here.”

Failure to evacuate the civilian population would result in many thousands of non-combatant deaths, according to IDF assessments.

Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, gave a televised address earlier this month vowing to “displace millions of Israelis in the coming war...if it was imposed on Lebanon.”   

Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.

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