The IDF is closely monitoring military activity by Lebanese terror group Hezbollah along Israel’s northern border, a retired army official said Saturday, and soldiers are combing the area in search of underground tunnels which may be used by the extremist Shiite group in order to carry out deadly cross-border attacks.
In an interview with Israel Radio, Gershon HaCohen, who recently retired from the IDF at the rank of major-general, stressed that the Israeli defense establishment must take any threats by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah very seriously, adding that the Lebanese organization had gained crucial battle experience after years of fighting rebel groups alongside the regime forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Last month, 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.
The official, however, added that, despite Hezbollah’s prowess in tunnel-digging, he was not aware of any attack tunnels extending into Israel’s territory.
“It’s likely Hezbollah has been engaged in this, but I don’t know of any tunnel in the area that is ready for attack. Hezbollah entered the underground world before Hamas even thought of it, and Hezbollah explained to Hamas how to prepare this sort of action,” he noted, adding that infiltrations into northern towns were possible without the use of tunnels.
The unnamed officer’s comments came after Channel 2 in September carried an extensive report from the Lebanon border which stated that the Israeli army was “making plans and training” for “a very violent war” against Hezbollah, without specifying when this war might break out.
That report, for which the army gave Israel’s Channel 2 access to several of its positions along the border with Lebanon, featured an IDF brigade commander warning that such a conflict “will be a whole different story” from the Israel-Hamas conflict from the Israel-Hamas in which over 2,000 Gazans (half of them gunmen according to Israel) and 72 Israelis were killed. “We will have to use considerable force” to quickly prevail over the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, “to act more decisively, more drastically,” said Colonel Dan Goldfus, commander of the 769th Hiram Infantry Brigade.
The report said 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, and thus the IDF would have to “maneuver fast” and act forcefully to prevail decisively in the conflict, Goldfus said.
Israel fought a bloody war against Hezbollah in 2006, which killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and some 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
An armistice line, known as the Blue Line, between Lebanon and Israel was drawn up by the UN in 2000, after IDF troops withdrew, ending a 22-year presence in the country’s south.
Adiv Sterman and Marissa Newman contributed to this report.