The Islamist militia Hizbullah, headquartered in southern Lebanon, or, in other words, on Israel’s volatile northern border, sits on an arsenal of over 100,000 short- to long-range rockets capable of striking the entire country.
A powerful backer of Syria’s President Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war, Hizbullah has already lost more than 1,300 soldiers due to its commitments across the border and is therefore unlikely to provoke a conflict with Israel, Israeli army brass said in a briefing to journalists. But the army’s assessment is that even “a small incident could spark a greater conflict.”
And then, all bets are off.
That conflict would likely result in Israeli planes being shot down by Hizbullah’s significant anti-aircraft weaponry, the IDF says, which in turn could shut down Ben Gurion International Airport.
Israeli naval vessels could be targeted by the fearsome Russian Yakhont anti-ship missile, which is believed to be in the hands of Syrian forces, Hizbullah allies, and which would wreak havoc on Israel’s shipping industry.
In addition, as in the past, IDF soldiers could be captured, dead or alive, requiring Israel to negotiate for their return, the IDF officers briefing journalists said.
“The next war will be different,” one official averred. “Hizbullah has turned most of the Shiite villages in southern Lebanon into [military] posts. They tend more toward subterranean battle and moving the battle into our territory. Hizbullah was digging tunnels even before Hamas.”
If there was one point of light in the briefing it was this: Israel assesses that Hizbullah will not enjoy the cash windfall some foresaw for it with the end of sanctions against its main benefactor Iran. The newly sanction-free Iran is likely to use the influx of cash at its disposal to try to float its own ailing economy, and not to fund the terror group.