Amid rising tensions on Israel’s northern border, the IDF is launching its largest drill in close to 20 years, with tens of thousands of soldiers from all branches of the army, simulating a war with Hezbollah.According to military assessments, while it is unlikely that Hezbollah will attack Israel in the near future, the northern border remains the most explosive, and both sides have warned that the next conflict would be devastating for the other. The IDF is preparing for a different kind of war on the northern front: a war along the entire northern border, not just on one border, such as the one with Lebanon.While the primary threat posed by Hezbollah remains its missile arsenal, the IDF believes that the next war will see the group trying to bring the fight into Israel by infiltrating Israeli communities to inflict significant civilian and military casualties.The two-week drill, which began on Monday evening, will focus on countering Hezbollah’s increased capabilities, and also include simulations of evacuating communities close to the border with Lebanon.During the drill, soldiers will play the role of civilians being evacuated. With close to a million Israelis living in the North, an estimated quarter- million would be evacuated in case a war breaks out with the terrorist group.Named after Meir Dagan, the former head of the Mossad, the exercise will see thousands of soldiers and reservists and all the different branches of the IDF – air force, navy, ground forces, Intelligence, cyber – drilling the ability of all branches to coordinate their operations during wartime.During the drill, no soldiers will be allowed to bring cellphones or any other digital devices, in an attempt to secure the exercise and to simulate a real war.
Hezbollah has rebuilt its arsenal since the last war it fought with Israel, in 2006. It is believed to now possess at least 100,000 short-range rockets and several thousand more missiles that can reach central Israel.According to some Israeli analysts, the next war with Hezbollah might see 1,500-2,000 rockets shot daily into Israel, compared with the 150-180 per day during the Second Lebanon War, in which 121 Israeli soldiers and 44 Israeli civilians were killed, and over 2,000 soldiers and civilians wounded.In addition to having rebuilt its arsenal, Hezbollah has changed from a terrorist group using guerrilla warfare tactics to a veritable army with battalions, brigades and over 40,000 fighters, who have gained immeasurable battlefield experience from fighting in Syria on the side of President Bashar Assad.Israel has made it clear it will continue to work to prevent the group from obtaining advanced weaponry, striking weapons convoys in Syria destined for the group at least 100 times in recent years.
Hezbollah says future Israel war could draw more fighters than in 2006 (credit: REUTERS)