Gallant warns multi-front war far more likely for Israel than limited conflicts

In briefing with reporters, defense minister says Iran ‘driving force in convergence of arenas,’ proxies becoming more brazen in attacks

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

IDF Artillery Corps and an Iron Dome air defense system are seen near the border with Lebanon, in northern Israel, April 6, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)
IDF Artillery Corps and an Iron Dome air defense system are seen near the border with Lebanon, in northern Israel, April 6, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned on Thursday that Israel would likely no longer see limited conflicts on single fronts, but rather would have to face a multi-front escalation in the near future.

“This is the end of the era of limited conflicts,” Gallant told reporters in a briefing. “We are facing a new security era in which there may be a real threat to all arenas at the same time.

“We operated for years under the assumption that limited conflicts could be managed, but that is a phenomenon that is disappearing. Today, there is a noticeable phenomenon of the convergence of the arenas,” Gallant said.

Earlier this month the country saw a security escalation on multiple fronts over the course of a few days, with rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and Israeli retaliatory strikes; a barrage of rockets from Lebanon; a rocket attack from Syria; a suspected Iranian drone launched from Syria and Israeli strikes in response; clashes at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount; and deadly terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank.

“Iran is the driving force in the convergence of the arenas. It transfers resources, ideology, knowledge, and training to its proxies,” Gallant said, referring to Palestinian terror groups in Gaza, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and other Iran-backed militias across the region.

According to Gallant, Iran funds the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon with $700 million a year, as well as “knowledge and strategic weaponry” such as precision-guided munitions.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is seen during a tour of the Lebanon border, March 16, 2023. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The Hamas terror group that rules the Gaza Strip is funded by Iran with $100 million annually, with additional funding worth tens of millions of dollars going to the second largest terror group in the Palestinian enclave, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Gallant said.

In Syria, hundreds of millions of dollars are sent to Iranian-backed militias each year, and the Syrian regime led by dictator Bashar Assad receives billions of dollars from Iran, he added.

Gallant said that Iran-backed militias in Iraq receive funding worth hundreds of millions of dollars each year as well as weaponry; and in Yemen, the Houthi rebel group is funded by Iran with hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

“The increasing dependence [of the proxies] on Iran leads them to step over the boundaries and become more brazen,” Gallant said.

File: Members of Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas terror group, attend a rally in Beit Lahiya, May 30, 2021. (Atia Mohammed/Flash90)

Speaking on the Iranian nuclear program, Gallant said, “Iran is closer than ever to reaching military nuclear capability.”

“In the face of this threat, we must act in one of two ways: military action or a credible military threat,” he said.

Israel has been pushing for the US to prepare military contingency plans in order to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. US President Joe Biden has said he is prepared to use military force if necessary, but still prefers to exhaust the diplomatic route first.

But in light of the lack of progress regarding a return by Iran to a 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, the past two years have seen the IDF ramp up efforts to prepare a credible military threat against Tehran’s nuclear sites.

“Iran feels increasing self-confidence. In its view, the West is deterred and lacks effective tools against it,” Gallant said. “While Israel is busy dealing with Iran’s proxies, Iran is getting stronger economically and militarily and this gives it room for action. This is something that should keep the whole world, and Israel, awake at night.”

Israeli F-35i and American F-15 jets hold an exercise over Israel, November 29, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Noting Israeli airstrikes against Iran’s entrenchment efforts in Syria, Gallant said: “We continue to systematically damage Iranian assets and capabilities in the region.

“We will not allow Iran to establish an Iranian army in Syria, we will not allow the Golan Heights to become Lebanon, and we will not allow Syrian territory to be a springboard for advanced weapons heading to Lebanon,” he said.

“We are working on all this at a large scale. Since I took office, in the first quarter of 2023 we doubled the rate of attacks in Syria. We are systematically attacking [Iranian] intelligence and military capabilities,” Gallant added.

Israel is alleged to have carried out a number of strikes in Syria this month, including one that killed two members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

File: A fire is seen after an alleged airstrike near the Syrian city of Masyaf, on August 25, 2022. (Social media: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Lastly, noting the rise of terror attacks in the West Bank and repeated gunfire by Palestinians against Israeli troops, Gallant blamed the weakened status of the Palestinian Authority.

“The weakening of the Palestinian Authority and the [PA security forces] creates significant security decisions for us. In places where the Palestinian Authority does not operate, this forces us to carry out longer and more intense operations,” he said.

Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have left 19 people dead since the beginning of the year and several more seriously hurt.

At least 92 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year, most of them while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under circumstances that are being investigated.

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