A week after Hezbollah attack, is Israel’s home front ready for war?

“Remember this day,” Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech on Monday evening. “This is the start of a new phase.”

THE ISRAEL-LEBANON border this week – when will the next flareup take place? (photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
THE ISRAEL-LEBANON border this week – when will the next flareup take place?
(photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
They say it’s all back to normal.
Farmers can go back to the fields, parents don’t need to worry when they send their kids back to school and tourists are welcome to hike the rolling hills of the Galilee Panhandle.
But driving along the windy roads on Monday, less than 24 hours after Hezbollah fired several Kornet anti-tank missiles toward an IDF armored personnel carrier, the roads were empty.
Lone cars drove past roadblocks manned by IDF troops, the look of exhaustion and boredom evident on their faces.
Between the communities of Yir’on and Avivim, a number of security officials scoured the ground. They were looking for the remnants of the Kornet, which by pure luck failed to hit the APC, which had five IDF troops inside. The APC went against military orders; it shouldn’t have been on that road. Had the vehicle been at the same spot a moment earlier, it would have been hit, soldiers would have been killed. It would have meant war with the Shi’ite Lebanese terrorist army.
Residents in the North huddled in their bomb shelters, thinking “this is it, this is war,” but Israel’s military had been preparing for Hezbollah, and following the attack the IDF played its best card.
It was a delicate ruse which consisted of a media blackout about wounded or dead soldiers and their evacuation to Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center by military helicopter. The IDF also fired off 100 artillery shells against targets in south Lebanon. Pro-Hezbollah outlets were quick to celebrate; it had killed IDF troops.
Two hours later, when the guns went silent and the smoke cleared, the IDF admitted: “Loud and clear, there are no injuries or fatalities to our troops.”
Both sides claimed victory, and even though the military has removed all restrictions for residents in the North, we are still waiting for one more attack by Hezbollah.
A humiliated Hassan Nasrallah promised that it would happen, warning that the group no longer has redlines following Israel’s strike in Syria and the alleged Israeli drone in their heartland, the Beirut neighborhood of Dahiyeh two weeks ago.
“Remember this day,” he said in a speech on Monday evening. “This is the start of a new phase.”
While the group retaliated for Syria, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International’s news channel reported that Hezbollah warned that “retaliation over drones will be in kind, and will be at its own time and according to its own circumstances.”
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, the former head of IDF Military Intelligence, told The Jerusalem Post that while Israel hasn’t taken responsibility for the drone attack in Dahiyeh, if the attack was indeed Israeli then it was a message to the group.
“It was not much more than a signal saying that Israel is serious. You need more than 5 kilos of explosives to destroy this project. The attack was signaling that, unlike the past, the IDF won’t let Hezbollah continue its project,” he said.
Hezbollah’s “precision project is considered in Israel casus belli. Israel hasn’t attacked targets in Lebanon, unlike the hundreds of Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria,” Yadlin, who now serves as the head of the Tel Aviv University-affiliated Institute for National Security Studies think tank, explained.
The terrorist group is said to possess over 130,000 rockets and missiles of all sorts of ranges and payloads, and while the group has been working on this project since 2013, it has only several dozen precision missiles that can accurately strike within 10 meters of its intended target.
According to Yadlin, the level of threat that Hezbollah’s precision missile project will pose in the future to Israel has changed the name of the deterrence game and may have led Israel to act in Lebanon against the project.
“With all due respect to mutual deterrence, when Israel sees such a threatening project, Israel prefers to deal with it at the development stage and not when there are thousands of them ready in the air flying to Israel,” he said. “We do have an operational missile defense system, but it’s not a hermetic defense. Today the precision project is a limited threat that we can cope with defensively; but when there will be thousands, it will be a different threat, it will be an imminent threat of the first degree.”
THE QUIET that has returned to Israel’s North is not the usual quiet. The tension can still be felt. The bomb shelters are still open. Everyone is waiting for the next explosion.
“It feels like the quiet before the storm,” Vera Margalit, who runs the visitors center at the Galil Mountain Winery outside the community of Yir’on, told Post. “But we have to continue our lives.”
“I’m not sure this is it. When Nasrallah says something, it will be done, and it’s too quiet right now,” her colleague Frederieka Shamai said.
The two women spent their afternoon on Monday in the winery’s bomb shelter along with a group of tourists. While they drank wine and ate cheese inside the shelter for the two hours of hostilities, they aren’t keen to spend any more time in one.
ISRAEL’S MILITARY says it’s prepared, readying troops – especially the air force and Military Intelligence – and continuing to deploy missile defense systems across the country’s North.
The IDF says everything can go back to normal, there’s no need to worry.
While the military says it is prepared for any eventuality, over 800,000 civilians in northern Israel don’t have a bomb shelter or secure space.
A recent report published by the Israel Builders Association based on data provided by the Central Bureau of Statistics painted a grim picture of a lack of fortifications in the face of a missile attack by Hezbollah.
Last year former defense minister Avigdor Liberman said that since the last war in the north, the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the government has invested some NIS 1.7 billion ($485 million) in protective facilities in southern Israel around the Gaza Strip, where some 46,000 residents live, spending an estimated NIS 37,000 ($10,600) per resident.
Meanwhile, in the North, which is home to about 244,000 Israelis, over the same period of time the government spent NIS 236m. ($68m.), or approximately NIS 970 ($280) per resident.
Liberman planned to have buildings in northern communities up to 45 km. from the Lebanese border fortified, but a year later the plan was canceled, leaving civilians in the North in the lurch. They have nowhere to run when Nasrallah launches his missile attack.
On Monday Liberman slammed the cancellation of his plan, saying that the country was “abandoning the civilians.”
“I’m sorry to say that my security plan for northern communities was canceled,” he was quoted by Ynet as saying. “Hezbollah is devoted to obtaining precision-guided missile technology, and it is not going to give up. That is why the cancellation of my plan is like abandoning the civilians. The fact that the plan was brought to a halt is madness.”
Ynet also quoted Giora Zeltz, the head of the Upper Galilee Regional Council, who warned of a disaster should Nasrallah choose to fire his massive missile arsenal toward populated areas.
“More than 50% of the people in these areas don’t have shelters, and when a major event happens there will be hundreds of thousands with no shelter to protect them. We’re talking about a very large area with zero response time. We need to fortify all the public and educational buildings by the end of 2020. With all the stupidity floating around, nothing is happening,” he said.
“There’s a real dissonance between the government’s claims and its actions. According to the government, more than 100,000 missiles are expected to land from Rosh Hanikra all the way to Mount Hermon,” he continued. “Think about the day when those missiles fall on populated areas.”