The Israel Defense Forces is preparing for a possible Hezbollah incursion using marines and other naval commandos in the country’s north, Ynet reported Monday.
A group of commandos could try to infiltrate north of Nahariya while protected by mortar and anti-tank fire from Lebanon, the IDF believes. It also believes that Hezbollah will attempt to capture Israeli territory and hold it, even temporarily, in order to declare a victory against Israel.
Both the army and navy are preparing for a raid, which is similar to Hamas’s attempted assault on Kibbutz Zikim during Operation Protective Edge in 2014. However, Hezbollah would have more significant operational capabilities than Hamas did for such an attack, due to Hezbollah’s recent battle experience in the Syrian Civil War and its continued support from Iran and Syria.
In order to defend against such an attack, Israel has deployed a network of sensors to detect and prevent a breach of Israel’s naval perimeter. The Israeli Navy’s 914th division has been practicing defending against such possibilities together with the Golani Brigade’s 51st Regiment, which is charged with defending the coastline.
Navy Lt. Col. Ronen Mirkam pointed out Lebanese ships sailing in the Mediterranean to Ynet’s Yoav Zitun and observed, “That kind of ship or jet ski could reach Israeli shores in no time. That is why we’re here 24/7, assisted by observation posts ashore and other means to combat this threat, that as far as we’re concerned could come at any moment, with no warning or notice from military intelligence.”
Hezbollah’s growing military capabilities, especially due to increased Iranian support, have been an Israeli concern for years. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah admitted last June that “Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, are from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” and insisted that the Lebanese terrorist organization “will not be affected” by new sanctions against his group. “As long as Iran has money, we have money… Just as we receive the rockets that we use to threaten Israel, we are receiving our money. No law will prevent us from receiving it,” he added.
Nasrallah’s acknowledgement of Iranian aid seems to confirm a public assurance given to him in August 2015 by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that the nuclear deal Iran reached with global powers presented “a historic opportunity” to confront Israel. Iran recently announced that its defense spending would increase by 90 percent in the coming year.
According to a July 2016 report published by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Israeli officials believe that any future war with Hezbollah has the potential to cause “thousands of civilian deaths” in Israel. Hezbollah has, among other things, threatened to attack ammonium tanks in Haifa, which could kill tens of thousands of people.
The think tank’s vice president for research, Jonathan Schanzer, explained that Hezbollah’s widely-reported tactic of hiding military assets in civilian areas would also lead to mass casualties. Reports emerged two years ago that Hezbollah was offering reduced-price housing to Shiite families who allowed the terrorist group to store rocket launchers in their homes. An Israeli defense official told The New York Times in May 2015 that the buildup of Hezbollah’s terror infrastructure in southern Lebanese villages meant that “civilians are living in a military compound” and that their lives were at risk. A few days later, a newspaper linked to Hezbollah bolstered the Israeli assessment.
[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Flickr ]