In case of a future war with the Islamist terrorist groups Hamas or Hezbollah, Israel would completely evacuate its border communities–up to 250,000 people in either case–to lower the threat level, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
These evacuations, coordinated with local municipalities to keep civilians safe, would be the biggest in Israeli history.
“In 2017, all of Israel is under threat,” Col. Itzik Bar, part of the Israeli military’s Homefront Command, told the AP. Israel is preparing to deal with “very high amounts” of incoming fire, he added.
Bar noted that Hezbollah gained valuable battle experience while fighting in the Syrian conflict, and that the leader of the Iranian proxy group, Hassan Nasrallah, had recently increased his hostile rhetoric against Israel.
Israel seeks to “remove the threat by not having civilians there,” Bar said. “We want a meeting of army and Hezbollah forces and not civilians with Hezbollah forces.”
“In places where we understand there is a great danger to civilians, for example, where we won’t be able to supply defenses or supply deterrence … we will evacuate,” he explained.
In such a case, Israel would house the evacuees in existing buildings, including schools, kibbutz guest houses, and hotels.
Bar’s comments come in wake of reports indicating that both Hamas and Hezbollah are beefing up their capabilities to attack Israel.
Veteran Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel assessed last month that Hamas was fully capable initiating attacks against Israeli communities near the Gaza border using its network of tunnels.
Brig. Gen. (res.) Nitzan Nuriel, formerly the head of Israel’s Counter-Terrorism bureau, warned earlier this week that Hezbollah is attempting to acquire game-changing weapons in anticipation of launching another war against Israel. These weapons include Scud-D warheads, as well as air defense systems including the SA-8, SA-14 and SA-18. These systems would give Hezbollah “an umbrella of protection,” Nuriel said. He added that the terrorist group is also looking for a chemical weapons system, which could be used tactically against Israel or as a deterrent.
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.
[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Flickr ]