Outgoing Home Front Command chief Maj. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg said that a future war between Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah group will include hundreds or even thousands of rockets raining down on the country every day.
Eisenberg spoke during an event Tuesday marking his stepping down from the post and handing it over to Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick.
The citizens of Israel, he said, should be prepared for significant challenges. According to estimates by the Home Front Command conducted during Eisenberg’s tenure, Israel must be prepared for a “blitz of attacks,” including 1,000-1,500 rockets falling on Israel’s home front every day.
But despite the grim scenario, Eisenberg remained upbeat as to Israel’s ability to weather a possible assault from Hezbollah. “Will it be hard? Can we stand up to them? Definitely; we have no choice,” he said.
The outgoing commander’s warning echoed information in leaflets distributed recently by the IDF’s Home Front Command to local authorities in which the army warned of the serious threat that Hezbollah poses to the country’s civilian population, and predicted that hundreds could be killed in a future conflict with Lebanon.
The army said that correct defensive procedures by civilians, such as retreating into stairwells during an attack, can significantly improve protection. The IDF has also been looking at plans that would see the evacuation of border communities and provide temporary housing for thousands of people at army bases and other sites.
The estimates of what the Shiite-aligned Hezbollah can do with its arsenal of rockets, which could number as many as 100,000, were not new; however, in light of regional tensions and recent clashes on the northern border there is concern of an increased possibility of war. Hezbollah’s arsenal of rockets is said to cover the entirety of Israel.
Security pundits cited in Hebrew-language media suggested that a key aspect of the awareness campaign by the IDF is to keep civilian expectations of Israel’s anti-missile capabilities realistic. During the 2014 summer conflict between the IDF and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians fired over 4,000 rockets at Israeli towns and cities. The Iron Dome anti-rocket system knocked out of the sky many of the projectiles, preventing them from hitting population centers, but Hezbollah’s far greater ability to rain down massive barrages of larger, more accurate rockets, could overwhelm it.
Earlier this month the UN Security Council warned that recent violence along Lebanon’s border with Israel and the presence of unauthorized weapons in a UN buffer zone pose a risk of a new conflict.
In January, two IDF soldiers were killed when an Israeli army patrol came under anti-tank fire from Hezbollah operatives in the northern Mount Dov region near the border with Lebanon.
Regarding that attack, Hezbollah said in a statement that a squad from the “fallen martyrs of the Quneitra brigade” had attacked the Israeli convoy in retaliation for an alleged Israeli airstrike near Quneitra, just over the border in Syria, a week earlier that had killed at least seven, including an Iranian general and a senior commander in the organization. The statement said it was a “first announcement,” alluding to the possibility of further attacks.
In October 2014, Hezbollah claimed a bomb attack against Israeli troops along the border that wounded two soldiers. Hours later, a second bomb went off along the border in the area, but did not result in any casualties. The clash came two days after a Lebanese soldier was lightly wounded by Israeli forces in the same area.
The last major conflict between Israel and Hebollah was in 2006 and began after the group killed five IDF soldiers and snatched the bodies of two — Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev — sparking a bloody, month-long war. The fighting resulted in the deaths of 43 Israeli civilians and 119 IDF soldiers, and over 1,700 dead on the Lebanese side, including 600 to 800 Hezbollah combatants, according to IDF figures.
During the 34 days of fighting, Hezbollah launched over 4,000 rockets at Israel, an average of over 100 a day.
The bodies of Regev and Goldwasser were returned to Israel in 2008 in exchange for Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar, four Hezbollah members and the remains of some 200 Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners.
Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report.