Israel

IDF Chief: Lebanon, Hezbollah Will Be Responsible for Next Conflict With Israel

The head of the Israeli military warned Sunday that the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah is building up its arsenal in Lebanon, which will bear the brunt of any future conflict between the Iranian proxy and Israel.

In a “future war, there will be a clear address: the state of Lebanon and the terror groups operating in its territory and under its authority,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said during a military ceremony in northern Israel, The Times of Israel reported.

Eisenkot warned that Hezbollah was fortifying itself and operating south of the Litani River near the border with Israel , in violation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Lebanon War.

“In Lebanon, Hezbollah continues to arm itself and strengthen itself,” Eisenkot observed. “We will continue to act divisively to thwart these efforts and will continue to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah.”

Israeli jets targeted an arms shipment headed to Hezbollah in Syria on Thursday night, promoting Syria to launch a SAM anti-aircraft missile at the Israeli planes, which was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow 2 anti-missile system. On Sunday, an Israeli drone strike reportedly hit a truck in southern Syria, killing a member of the National Defence Forces, a pro-regime militia with extensive ties to Iran.

Israeli security officials warned earlier this month that the Lebanese army, which receives aid and equipment from the United States, would fight alongside Hezbollah in a future conflict. Earlier this week, Nadav Nuriel, the former director of Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau, said that Hezbollah is attempting to acquire game-changing weapons in anticipation of launching another war against Israel, which is “only a question of time.”

Hezbollah’s growing military capabilities have been an Israeli concern for years. 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 his group “will not be affected” by American sanctions on Iran. “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 declared.

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 announced in June that its defense spending would increase by 90 percent in the following year.

According to a July 2016 report 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.

FDD’s vice president for research, Jonathan Schanzer, explained in July 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 ]