If Hezbollah attacks Israel in retaliation for the alleged Israeli assassination of terror chief Samir Kuntar, Israel should direct its own response not at Hezbollah alone, but at the state of Lebanon in which it operates, former National Security Council chief Maj. Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland said Wednesday.
Since a full-blown Israel-Hezbollah war will likely involve many thousands of rockets falling on Israel’s civilian population centers, while Israeli strikes against Hezbollah alone will leave the world “indifferent” to the results of the conflict, Eiland wrote in an oped in the Ynet news site.
The goal of a broader assault on Lebanon, the former head of the IDF’s planning and operations branches explained, would be to raise the costs for both Hezbollah’s allies and the international community, leading to pressure on Hezbollah to cease rocket fire on Israeli cities.
“If and when hostile activities begin from Lebanese territory, [Israel] should lead to a war between the State of Israel and the state of Lebanon. In the Second Lebanon War we tried to defeat Hezbollah alone, leaving the state of Lebanon, its government, army and infrastructure ‘out of the game.’ If that’s the way we run the third Lebanon war, the results will be a lot grimmer than in the previous war.”
While Israel “allegedly” improved its capabilities against Hezbollah since 2006, “Hezbollah has relatively improved much more than we have,” Eiland wrote. “So if there is such a conflict, and if it lasts 34 days (like the Second Lebanon War), the damage, casualties and destruction in the State of Israel will be unbearable.”
That leads to a “simple” conclusion: “The next war will be waged against the state of Lebanon. In addition to Hezbollah targets, we should also attack the Lebanese army, the infrastructures in Lebanon, the airports and seaports and any other strategic assets. Since no one in the world (Syria and Iran on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia, Europe and the United States on the other hand) is interested in Lebanon’s destruction, and since that will be the inevitable result of an all-out war between Israel and Lebanon, there will be huge global pressure on all sides to reach a ceasefire after three days rather than after 34 days, and that’s exactly what Israel needs.”
According to Eiland, exacting a cost for any Hezbollah attack from the Lebanese state — the Shiite group sits in Lebanon’s parliament and cabinet — will “make it possible to prevent the war, as the majority of the world is indifferent to any damage to Hezbollah (or to Israel) but will not be indifferent to the possibility of Lebanon’s destruction.”
The IDF this week instructed farmers living near the northern border to limit their activities near Lebanese territory. It also instituted other additional security protocols in the area, amid the expectation that Hezbollah may retaliate for the Sunday killing of Hezbollah-affiliated arch-terrorist Samir Kuntar in a missile strike near Damascus.
IDF soldiers operating along the northern border have been instructed to wear helmets and bulletproof vests to protect themselves against possible gunfire from across the border.
Hezbollah has vowed revenge for Kuntar’s assassination, saying it was carried out by Israel.
Later Sunday, three rockets fired from Lebanon landed in northern Israel, though they were not claimed by Hezbollah.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address Monday evening that his Lebanon-based Shiite terror group would respond to the killing.
“We reserve the right to respond to this assassination at the time and place of our choosing. We in Hezbollah will exercise that right,” he said in his address from Beirut.
Hezbollah has said Kuntar, who spent nearly three decades in an Israeli prison for his part in the brutal 1979 murders of a Nahariya family, was killed along with eight others in an overnight Saturday airstrike on a residential building in Jaramana, on the outskirts of the Syrian capital of Damascus.
“I hold Israel responsible for the assassination of Kuntar,” Nasrallah said.
Nasrallah recalled the first time he met Kuntar after he was released from prison in Israel.
“Kuntar told me the first day we met, ‘I left Palestine to return to Palestine,’” he said. “Kuntar refused to take any political or public responsibilities, he only wanted to fight Israel.”
The Hezbollah leader accused Israel of firing guided missiles at the building where Kuntar was living. He dismissed some Syrian reports to the effect that it wasn’t Israel, but rather rebels, who killed Kuntar.
“We have no doubt that the Israeli enemy was behind the assassination in a blatant military operation,” he said, according to the Naharnet news site.
Nasrallah also praised the Palestinian youths who have been involved in the current wave of terror attacks against Israel, and noted admiringly that Kuntar was only a teenager himself when he carried out his notorious attack, in which he killed an Israeli girl and her father.
Israel has not confirmed that it was behind the Sunday attack, though officials expressed satisfaction over Kuntar’s death. There have also been Israeli reports that Kuntar was planning fresh terror attacks against Israel.
A Lebanese Druze, Kuntar took part in the 1979 raid from Lebanon in which he helped kidnap members of the Haran family from Nahariya. The family’s four-year-old daughter, Einat, was killed when Kuntar smashed her head with his rifle butt. Three others, including her father, Danny, were also murdered in the attack. Kuntar was 16 at the time, and a member of the Palestine Liberation Front.
Kuntar spent 29 years in an Israeli prison before being traded to Hezbollah in 2008 in exchange for the bodies of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. Following his release, he took on a senior role in the group, was honored by then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and by Syrian President Bashar Assad, and helped to organize Syrian Druze on the Golan Heights and elsewhere into terror cells charged with carrying out attacks against Israel.