A decade after the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War, Israel on Tuesday held a civilian drill in the northern communities pounded by Hezbollah rockets during the 2006 conflict, as an officer warned the next war could see a six-fold increase in missile attacks.
The exercise practiced the evacuation of towns and agricultural communities in the Upper Galilee Regional Council, in preparation for a possible resurgence of hostilities between Israel and the Lebanon-based terrorist group.
While the war drums may not be beating, the fresh outbreak of war has remained a constant threat since the cessation of hostilities following the 2006 war, which saw southern Lebanon and northern Israel battered by 33 days of fighting.
There have been several cross-border exchanges over the years, but have been quieted quickly and analysts believe Hezbollah is too bogged down in Syrian fighting to launch a war against Israel, despite recent sword-clanging rhetoric from leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Army Radio on Tuesday cited Israeli officials who said the defense establishment does not expect Hezbollah to initiate a new round of fighting; however, they assessed that an individual incident could escalate into open war.
Tuesday’s drill was the largest exercise to be held along the Lebanon border since the end of the 2006 war.
According to a report on Channel 2, the drill was planned in advance, and is not connected to the anniversary of the war.
Earlier on Tuesday, a former chief of the Israel Defense Forces’ Home Front Command warned that in a future war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel could be pounded with over 1,000 rockets a day, far more than the country has endured previous conflicts.
“If in the Second Lebanon War the record was 160 rockets in a day [fired] at the northern region, we need to expect up to 1,200 rockets in a day — it will be a completely different scenario from anything we’ve known,” Major-General (res) Yitzhak Gershon, told Army Radio.
Israelis have also become concerned over the possibility of Hezbollah tunneling under the border to infiltrate Israeli communities, though no tunnels have been found.
In 2015, a senior IDF official warned that while Hezbollah has no immediate plan to attack Israel, a minor security incident could erupt into a full-fledged war on Israel’s northern front during which the terror organization would likely try to capture swaths of the Galilee by using tunnels to invade the country.
Gershon’s remarks came as Israel marked 10 years since the outbreak of fighting with Hezbollah in Lebanon on July 12, 2006.
Sparked by a coordinated attack that left three Israeli soldiers dead and saw two others taken captive, the war, during which Hezbollah lobbed thousands of rockets into northern Israel, continued until a United Nations-brokered ceasefire on August 14.
Israeli losses included 121 IDF soldiers and 44 civilians. Some 1,200 IDF soldiers and 1,300 Israeli civilians were injured. In 2008, the bodies of captured IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were returned to Israel in exchange for five Hezbollah terrorists and the bodies of 200 others killed in Lebanon and held by Israel.