What will the next Hezbollah-Israel war look like?

The report describes three phenomena which will make the next conflict profoundly worse than recent wars Israel has fought.

HEZBOLLAH SUPPORTERS carry a model of the Dome of the Rock during a rally in Beirut. (photo credit: REUTERS)
HEZBOLLAH SUPPORTERS carry a model of the Dome of the Rock during a rally in Beirut.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The next expected conflict between Israel and Hezbollah will lead to unprecedented casualties on both sides and a new escalated round of lawfare against the IDF&rsquo;s conduct, says a new report by top ex-US military officials.<br /> <br /> Issued by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America&rsquo;s (JINSA) Gemunder Center for Defense and Strategy, the report describes three phenomena which will make the next conflict profoundly worse than recent wars Israel has fought.<br /> <br /> First, Israel will be under attack by an estimated 120,000-140,000 Hezbollah rockets at an estimated rate of around 1,000 per day, spiking potentially as high as 3,000 per day at the outset.<br /> <br /> In perspective, the entire multi-week 2006 Lebanon War with Hezbollah saw them fire 4,000 rockets on Israel.<br /> <br /> The JINSA report paints a horrifying picture of skyscrapers in Tel Aviv and other major cities being toppled much the same as the Twin Towers fell in New York, leading to mass casualties.<br /> <br /> It also predicts Ben-Gurion Airport, the Haifa Port and key infrastructure points will be shut down on an extended basis or even destroyed.<br /> <br /> In the report, the assumption is that Israel&rsquo;s vaunted Iron Dome system will be overwhelmed by the volume of rockets.<br /> <br /> That would mean that even with a 90% interception rate (which the report says might be overly optimistic since Hezbollah has hundreds of advanced rockets), hundreds of precision rockets could get through daily.<br /> <br /> Second, JINSA says this vastly more dangerous threat from Hezbollah will compel the IDF to fundamentally alter its war plans from past wars to quickly use overwhelming force to try to gain a decisive win.<br /> <br /> &nbsp;In the 2006 war with Hezbollah and in three wars with Hamas from 2008 to 2014, the IDF took its time in using ground troops and even when it used them, it did so sparingly and without penetrating deep into enemy territory.<br /> <br /> Yet, to end <a href="https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Hezbollah-leader-says-has-rockets-despite-Israeli-efforts-in-Syria-567579" target="_blank">Hezbollah&rsquo;s expected hail of rockets</a> sooner, the report says that the IDF will need to simultaneously sound large forces of ground troops into southern, central and even parts of northern Lebanon.<br /> <br /> Referring to the IDF&rsquo;s plans that various defense officials have presented, the IDF would send large forces directly into southern Lebanon, while dropping paratroopers and special forces into areas deeper in Lebanon behind Hezbollah&rsquo;s lines.<br /> <br /> Also, the IDF would need to rain down as many aerial attacks in 48 hours as it did during the entire 2006 war, quoting former air force commander Amir Eshel.<br /> <br /> This massive use of force will lead to the destruction of vast parts of Lebanon and innumerable Lebanese civilian casualties both because of the volume and because Hezbollah has systematically concealed its weapons in residences, hospitals and other civilian locations.<br /> <br /> Enter the third phenomenon discussed by the report: the expected lawfare backlash against Israel for causing such a large number of civilian casualties.<br /> <br /> The report warns that Hezbollah, and actors like it who systematically use human shields, have made hitting Israel and other Western countries with war crimes accusations, so central to their strategy, that they care even more about delegitimizing Israel publicly than they do about the military arena.<br /> <br /> At this point, the report clarifies misunderstandings about the rules of international law and war that it says leads to misplaced criticism of Israel.<br /> <br /> It says that many incorrectly presume that if one side of a war has fewer casualties and the other side has a much larger number of civilian casualties, that the side with fewer casualties must have acted disproportionately and committed war crimes.<br /> <br /> In contrast, JINSA explains that the final number of casualties on both sides is largely irrelevant in the legal sphere.<br /> <br /> Rather, what is relevant is the perspective at the time the attack was ordered.<br /> <br /> When Israel or a Western country would order an attack, the legal consideration is whether it was viewed as necessary militarily and if the damage to civilians was viewed as not excessive given the military objective being pursued.<br /> <br /> This calculation must also take into account the additional difficulty of avoiding civilian casualties when facing a foe like Hezbollah &ndash; who is systematically using human shields.<br /> <br /> JINSA explains that Israel undertakes a range of measures to warn civilians to leave dangerous areas &ndash; from fliers to telephone calls to &ldquo;roof-knocking&rdquo; (shooting a non-explosive missile at a roof soon to be attacked to make a loud noise) &ndash; that go beyond international law&rsquo;s vague requirements in this area.<br /> <br /> Moreover, the report says that Israel&rsquo;s rules of engagement often are more restrictive than international law.<br /> <br /> This means that if the IDF violates such stricter rules of engagement, they may be subject to IDF discipline, but not necessarily to war crimes charges.<br /> <br /> JINSA says such distinctions are key when discussing whether and how much artillery can be used in urban areas.<br /> <br /> The report says that despite an IDF preference not to use artillery, or to use a less destructive method of attack to reduce human suffering, there is no absolute legal requirement to refrain from artillery use or to only use less destructive weaponry.<br /> <br /> It expresses a hope that a better understanding of the expected horrifying context and of international law will save Israel from the lawfare backlash.<br /> <br /> The task force authoring the report is led by five senior American military officers and legal experts: Gen. Gilmary &ldquo;Mike&rdquo; Hostage, USAF (ret.); Lt. Gen. Richard Natonski, USMC (ret.); Lt. Gen. Michael Tucker, USA (ret.); Col. Marc Warren, USA (ret.) and Lt. Col. Geoffrey Corn, USA (ret.).<br /> <br />