Hezbollah gives reporters grand tour of new Israeli defenses
Officer in the Lebanese terror group says that Israel, ‘for the first time’ in history, is switching to ‘a defensive doctrine’
Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.
An officer in the terror group Hezbollah gave a field tour to Lebanese journalists Thursday along the Lebanese border with Israel, detailing the Jewish state’s new defenses and claiming Israel had switched to a “defensive” doctrine for the first time in its history.
The Israeli army has been changing the topography of the Israel-Lebanon border, carving and molding the landscape in order to make it more difficult for Hezbollah fighters to attack nearby border towns.
While taking queries from the journalists, the Hezbollah officer refused to answer questions about a possible next war with Israel or about the terror organization itself.
However, he said in a clip published by the governmental Lebanese Broadcasting Company, “for the first time in this enemy’s history, it’s switching from an offensive to a defensive doctrine.”
The Hezbollah officer, surrounded by a group of clamoring journalists, concentrated his talk on “the geographic reality and the spread of the Zionist enemy, and the defensive measures the enemy has taken lately.”
Standing in a position in which he is looking down at Israel, he showed off that he is familiar with the locations of the various Israeli towns in the area, including Shlomi, Avivim and Hanita.
Hanita, he said, was built by the “gangs of the Haganah” — Israel’s largest pre-state militia and the precursor of the IDF — “starting in 1932.”
“There are many colonies built over Palestinian ruins by the enemy on the pure land,” he said.
He proceeded to discuss the units operating in the area.
“There are a number military sites under the command of the Western Brigade, Brigade 300, which is subordinate to the Northern Command. Recently General Yoel Strick was appointed as its commander,” he said.
The Hezbollah officer also showed that he is familiar with the chain of command from the division level down to the smaller companies.
He pointed to what he said is the “Israeli Galilee media site, which contains the largest spying and surveillance system.”
At one point the camera focuses on an Israeli military jeep driving down a mountain road that looks not too far away.
“For the past year, the enemy has begun to build fortifications, obstacles, and extensive means of defense to stop people from moving toward him,” he said.
“The enemy assumes the resistance [Hezbollah] will use this area to penetrate into its colonies, but I do not adopt this,” he added.
Hezbollah also showed off some of its weaponry, inviting photographers to take pictures of its armed gunmen.
Thursday’s tour sought to paint Israel as afraid of a new conflict, while depicting Hezbollah as ready for war despite having committed thousands of its fighters to bolstering Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
Journalists were taken from the southern Lebanese town of Naqura, with Hezbollah fighters in full military regalia stationed along the route alongside the group’s yellow flag — despite an official ban on any armed paramilitary presence in southern Lebanon.
Faces smeared with black and green camouflage, they stood silently holding guns and RPG launchers.
On the demarcation line, officially patrolled by the Lebanese army and the UN peacekeeping force known as UNIFIL, there was little sign of tension. The scents of wild thyme and yellow gorse mingled in the air, the landscape peaceful beyond the noise produced by the sudden scrum of visitors.
While eager to discuss the measures they say Israel has been taking, Hezbollah officials refused to be drawn on their own preparations for war, beyond insisting on their ability to fight if one comes.
Some analysts believe Hezbollah would be hard-pressed to fight on two fronts, Syria and Israel, but others note the group’s combatants have also gained new experience during years of battle in the Syrian conflict.
On the less than 50 kilometers (30 miles) of border that the 300th Regional Brigade is responsible for, Israel has carried out “thousands of kilometers” of work, Israel’s chief engineering officer, Maj. Eliyahu Gabay, told The Times of Israel in a recent interview.
The Hezbollah officer said the IDF removed the greenery on the slope of a mountain, creating an open zone 1,600 meters long and seven to 15 meters high.
“It was all once green here,” the officer said.
He also said Israel has made an eight- to 10-meter-high dirt embankment between the Israeli towns of Hanita and Hamra “meant to prevent passage.”
According to Gabay, the terrorist group is constantly monitoring the IDF’s efforts to shore up defenses. “It’s normal, it’s routine, it’s regular” for its operatives to come to the border and watch our progress, he said.
Judah Ari Gross and AFP contributed to this report.