The next war between Israel and Hezbollah will take place in Israel’s Galilee region, a senior commander in the Lebanese terror group warned on Saturday, the latest threat in an escalating war of words between the two sides.
“Our battle will be in the Galilee, and if the enemy and its tanks enter Lebanon, they will not be able to leave,” the commander said in an interview with the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar TV network, which identified him as Hajj Jihad but blurred his face for the broadcast.
The threat came four days after Defense Minister Yoav Gallant toured Israel’s border with Lebanon and warned the head of Iran-backed Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, “not to make a mistake.”
“If… an escalation or conflict develops here, we will return Lebanon to the Stone Age,” Gallant said.
In the Saturday interview, Jihad said that Hezbollah will destroy all IDF military posts in the next battle, turning them into “graveyards” and causing all Israeli soldiers to flee.
“The Israeli army lacks fighting spirit. This is not based on the word of the Islamic resistance but according to the Zionists themselves, who do not trust it,” Jihad told Al Manar. The remark appeared to be a reference to the recent deterioration of the IDF’s readiness due to thousands of active duty reservists who have said they will cease reporting for volunteer duty over the government’s judicial overhaul.
الضابط في عمليات المقاومة الإسلامية حزب الله #لبنان الحاج جهاد ..
في الحرب المقبلة ..
نحن أمام مواقع إسرائيلية في الداخل ستتحول إلى مقابر للعدو ..
سنشاهد الجنود يهربون منها .. pic.twitter.com/jCACpayDZP
— مـْـْْـْريمـْـْْـْ????المَقدِسيةْ???????? (@Q__313) August 12, 2023
Nasrallah has gloated several times in recent months over the societal rifts sparked by the overhaul, saying they have left Israel at its most vulnerable point in years.
Jihad contrasted Israel’s ostensible lack of fighting spirit with that of Hezbollah and declared, “We have completed the necessary preparations… and the world will see… the defeat of the Zionist army in the upcoming battle.”
He claimed that Hezbollah has been preparing for the next war with Israel every day since 2006’s Second Lebanon War.
“The next war will not be in southern Lebanon, but in the Galilee region,” Jihad said, claiming that the Israeli Air Force will not be able to enter the skies above southern Lebanon (the Air Force has repeatedly operated in Syria in recent years against Iran-linked targets, and Israeli spy drones operate over Lebanon’s skies regularly).
He said that the IDF’s preparations confirm that it is focused on defense from an attack in the Galilee, as opposed to offensive strikes in Lebanese territory.
In recent months, Hezbollah activity has repeatedly been spotted along the border, in incidents that Israel sees as deliberate provocations, including the erection of two tents on the Israeli side of the United Nations-recognized Blue Line in the Mount Dov area. The Iran-backed group later took down one of the tents, while threatening to attack if Israel moves to dismantle the other one.
Other recent incidents have included camouflaged Hezbollah members walking along the border in violation of a UN resolution, and Hezbollah activists crossing the Blue Line (though not the Israeli fence) on numerous occasions, including attempts to damage the border fence and army surveillance equipment.
In April, dozens of rockets were fired from Lebanon at Israel, injuring three and damaging buildings. Though Israel blamed the attack on the Palestinian terror group Hamas, it was seen as having been carried out with the tacit approval of Hezbollah, which maintains tight control of southern Lebanon.
Separately, in March, the IDF accused Hezbollah of sending a terrorist to infiltrate Israel from Lebanon and plant a bomb at a junction in northern Israel. The blast seriously wounded an Israeli man.
Israel and Lebanon do not have a formal border due to territorial disputes; however, they largely abide by the Blue Line. The Blue Line is marked with blue barrels along the border and is several meters from the Israeli fence in some areas, which is built entirely within Israeli territory.
Hezbollah has long been the IDF’s most potent adversary on Israel’s borders, with an estimated arsenal of nearly 150,000 rockets and missiles that can reach anywhere in Israel.
Work on a new border wall with Lebanon began in 2018. By 2020, the military and Defense Ministry Borders and Security Fence Directorate had completed only 15 kilometers (9 miles) of concrete walling along the approximately 130-kilometer (80-mile) border in order to protect the 22 adjacent Israeli villages. Eventually, the plan is to construct a barrier along the entire border — a project that would cost NIS 1.7 billion ($470 million).
Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report