The recent relative quiet on Israel’s northern front with Lebanon is “more deceptive than ever,” the Israeli military chief said on Sunday.
“The operational activity on the northern front is an example of the exercise of military power that allows the front to be shaped and enables the State of Israel to realize its goals,” Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff (Lt.-Gen.) Aviv Kochavi said at a military ceremony.
He said Hezbollah has “hijacked” Lebanon, causing the country to pay a “double price” both in terms of its national security and economy.
Kochavi also warned that Israel would not stand by and wait to be harmed.
“The State of Lebanon and Hezbollah will bear the consequences if the sovereignty of the State of Israel is harmed, and if [Israel's] assets or citizens are harmed, the IDF does not and will not stand by, and any attempt to harm the State of Israel, in any arena, will be met with a sharp response or a preemptive initiative,” he said.
Hezbollah, funded by Iran to the tune of $800 million annually, is believed to have an arsenal of 150,000 rockets with the ability to strike anywhere in Israel.
Incoming head of IDF Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Ori Gordin, however, recently said that 50% of Hezbollah’s rockets are aimed at cities on the border with Lebanon, including Nahariya, Akko, Safed and Kiryat Shmona. Forty percent of Hezbollah’s arsenal could reach Haifa and its environs, while only 5% are expected to be able to reach areas further south in Israel.
Tensions between Israel and Hezbollah are currently high over an ongoing dispute between Israel and Lebanon about rights to offshore gas fields in the Mediterranean. Hezbollah has threatened to attack Israel’s offshore gas field Karish and in July, the IDF reportedly shot down three unarmed Hezbollah drones that were launched at a gas rig in that field. Israel’s rig is expected to begin pumping gas in a matter of weeks, a fact that will test Hezbollah’s resolve.
According to Matthew Levitt, director of the Jeanette and Eli Reinhard Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Hezbollah wants to “scratch their resistance itch” and although they would not want to drag the Middle East into a “full-blown war” the organization is nevertheless, “willing to put Lebanese citizens at risk and drag Israel into a war just to use it as a scapegoat.”
In July, Hezbollah’s leader Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah made an unmistakable threat against Israel.
“If the extraction of oil and gas from Karish begins in September before Lebanon obtains its right, we would be heading to ‘a problem’ and we’ll do anything to achieve our objective,” Nasrallah said in an interview on Al Mayadeen TV. “No one wishes for war and the decision is in Israel’s hands, not in our hands.”
Gordin emphasized that the IDF has no intention of being complacent.
“The spectacular view from Mount Canaan, the quietness and pastoral atmosphere in the Upper Galilee and the Golan can deceive and not reflect the instability and the tumultuous land to the east and north of our border – both in Syria and Lebanon,” he said. “We will not commit the sin of complacency and will be with two open eyes and with a clenched fist and ready to act in the face of any attempt to threaten or create a reality that threatens the security of the citizens of Israel.”
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.