Top defense official: In 24 hours, Israel attacked various 'fronts'

Official says stopping Hezbollah missiles top priority for Israel after Iran nukes. ‘Had we not acted correctly we would be in a different reality today'

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah addresses his supporters during a public appearance at a religious procession (photo credit: AZIZ TAHER/REUTERS)
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah addresses his supporters during a public appearance at a religious procession
(photo credit: AZIZ TAHER/REUTERS)
Hezbollah’s precision missile program is the State of Israel’s top priority, just after working to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear capability, a top defense official said on Monday.
The official spoke a day after Hezbollah and Israel exchanged blows along the Lebanese border in an attempt by the Iranian-backed guerrilla organization to exact a price from Israel for the bombing of a terror cell in Syria late in August. While no IDF troops were injured, Israel fired over a hundred artillery shells toward targets in south Lebanon in response to the attack and airlifted two uninjured soldiers to Rambam hospital in Haifa.
“We can’t hide injured troops in Israel for half an hour,” he said, disputing claims in Lebanon that troops had been injured in the attack.
According to the official, Israel has been operating against Iran in several arenas.
“Had we had not acted correctly we would be in a different reality today,” he said.
Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video message that Israel acted with determination and responsibility, adding that: “We kept our citizens safe and maintained the peace of our soldiers.”
“The man in the bunker in Beirut knows exactly why he is in the bunker,” he said, referring to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
“We will continue to do everything necessary to keep Israel safe - at sea, on land and in the air – and we will continue to work against the threat of [Hezbollah’s] precision missiles.”
The terrorist group also released a video purportedly showing the strike on an armored personnel carrier in the North. The IDF said the vehicle was spared save for one of its tires, which was hit by the projectile.
The top official said that while preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb remains Israel’s top priority, thwarting Hezbollah’s precision missile project has become the second top objective. Next is preventing Iranian entrenchment in various Middle Eastern countries like Iraq and Yemen.
“Due to developments and situational assessments, it was decided three months ago that the precision missile project would be given high priority because of the immediate danger it poses. The military echelons were informed of this decision,” the senior official said, adding that “we cannot afford to be surrounded by thousands of precision missiles that could land and harm the State of Israel.”
“Our three targets have one address: Iran,” the source continued, adding that Iran’s Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani is the address for two of the three threats. He refused to answer how Israel could deal with him.
“To prevent this consolidation by Iran, we are carrying out many operations that nobody knows anything about,” he said, adding that the operations are carried out by the IDF and the Mossad.
“Everything we have done during the last few weeks and days was planned and executed exactly how we wanted,” he said. “Everything is part of our overall strategy that we are managing in several different ways and in several different arenas.”
According to the senior official, Israel had planned and prepared for possible enemy reactions.
On Monday night, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called the attack on Avivim a success which was “deliberately” carried out during the day.
“Israel, the tyrant and arrogant, claiming to possess the region’s strongest army, was seen by the world scared and worried for eight days,” he said during a speech.
Hezbollah, he said, broke “the biggest redline for dozens of years” for Israel by targeting it across the border, not in the contested Shebaa Farms area where the group had previously targeted IDF troops.
The attack against Avivim was a message to Israel, Nasrallah warned.
“We no longer have redlines. This is the start of a new phase. Remember this date.”
The senior official spoke as a tense quiet returned to northern Israel after Hezbollah fired three Kornet anti-tank missiles at empty IDF vehicles near the community of Avivim along the Lebanese border on Sunday.
According to the official, Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri passed a message to Israel via Egypt, France and the United States from Nasrallah to stop the fire.
Israel, he said, replied that “quiet will be answered with quiet.”
The IDF’s Northern Command has been on high alert since last week, expecting a limited strike against military targets over strikes in Syria and an alleged Israeli drone attack in Beirut’s Dahiyeh last week.
While Israel has remained quiet and not claimed carrying out the attack in Beirut, Nasrallah said the Israeli attack “was a failure.”
On Sunday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi met with UNIFIL Force Commander and Head of Mission Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col, who called the attack against the IDF a “serious incident in violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701 and clearly directed at undermining stability in the area.”
Kochavi, who was meeting Del Col for the first time since he assumed his position in January, told the UNIFIL commander that Israel “will not accept harm to our citizens or our soldiers, and we will not accept Hezbollah’s precision missile project on Lebanese soil.”
According to Kochavi, “the current state of affairs is not one we can accept” and called on Lebanon and UNIFIL to stop Iran and Hezbollah’s precision missile project.
“The State of Lebanon and UNIFIL must bring an end to Iran and Hezbollah’s precision missile project in Lebanon and fully implement [UN] Security Council Resolution 1701,” he said.
Lebanon will suffer the consequences if it does not rein in Hezbollah, Foreign Minister Israel Katz told his German counterpart Heiko Mass in a phone conversation on Monday.
Katz, according to a statement put out by his office, said that Israel has no interest in seeing an escalation of the situation in the North, but is prepared for all scenarios and will “react with strength against any attack against it, and will view the State of Lebanon as responsible.”
Katz thanked Germany for passing messages on to the Lebanese government. He also called on Germany to impose sanctions on Hezbollah and – as Britain has done – to place it on its terrorist blacklist. Mass, according to the statement, said that Berlin views Hezbollah in Lebanon in a similar way as Jerusalem, and that it will consider declaring it a terrorist organization.
Herb Keinon and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.