Hezbollah poses greater threat to Tel Aviv than Gaza does — IDF official

Home Front Command official predicts larger rocket barrages on center of country, but confident area could handle situation

Israelis take cover in an underground parking garage as siren sounds during rocket attack fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, July 10, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Oded Balilty)
Israelis take cover in an underground parking garage as siren sounds during rocket attack fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, July 10, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Oded Balilty)

The greater Tel Aviv area would face a heavy pounding by Hezbollah rockets should Israel wage war in the north, an outgoing Israeli military official said, warning that such fire would far outpace barrages suffered during the summer’s conflict with Gaza.

Gush Dan District Commander Col. Efi Mishov said that though the fire is estimated to be heavier in a possible war with the Lebanon-based Shiite terror group Hezbollah, the Tel Aviv region would likely be able to withstand the onslaught.

“I believe that things will be different and that the restrictions [on the population], which were minor in the Dan region, will be more significant in a northern scenario in which the threat is different,” Mishov told  Israel’s Channel 2 in an interviewed aired Saturday night. “In a northern campaign there would probably be more rockets shot at Gush Dan than in this campaign. But even though the threat is greater and different, I still think that Dan region could handle it.”

Mishov based his assessment on a Home Front Command survey that showed 90 percent of residents in the area followed protocols during the seven-week conflict with Hamas, alongside improvements made to alert systems in the area, such as the installation of more alarms in areas where residents reported they did not always hear the sirens.

“If I’d told you before this operation that over a hundred rockets would be shot at the Dan region, and the area would still function like it does, probably not everybody would have agreed with me,” he said.

Tel Aviv suffered nearly daily rockets during the 50-day war with Hamas in Gaza over the summer, though the Iron Dome missile interception system kept damage to a minimum.

The barrages were the first serious attack on the city since the 1991 Gulf War. Though Hezbollah launched thousands of rockets at Israel during a three-week war in 2006, most failed to reach further south than the northern coastal plain, damaging Haifa but leaving Tel Aviv unscathed.

Mishov’s assessment follows several warnings over past weeks from top IDF commanders that a war with Hezbollah would be far more serious than the conflict with Gaza.

In mid-September, an IDF official went as far as predicting that Hezbollah could capture the Rosh Hanikra area for several hours if Israel does not strike the group preemptively. However, he said Israel would likely be able to recapture whatever land Hezbollah managed to sally into.

And just 10 days after the ceasefire took hold, Channel 2 reported that the Israeli army is “making plans and training” for “a very violent war” against Hezbollah in south Lebanon.

The report detailed that Hezbollah has an estimated 100,000 rockets — 10 times as many as were in the Hamas arsenal — and that its 5,000 long-range missiles, located in Beirut and other areas deep inside Lebanon, are capable of carrying large warheads (of up to 1 ton and more), with precision guidance systems, covering all of Israel.

Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system would not be able to cope with that kind of challenge, according to Col. Dan Goldfus, commander of the 769th Hiram Infantry Brigade, and thus the IDF would have to “maneuver fast” and act forcefully to prevail decisively in the conflict.

In an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth published Friday, IDF chief of Staff Benny Gantz said Hezbollah was a more serious foe than Hamas.

The threat against the citizens of Israel from Lebanon is much wider than from Gaza,” he said.

Marissa Newman and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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