A senior IDF official warned Thursday that Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group would likely target Ben Gurion International Airport and the Haifa seaport in a future war with Israel in an attempt to cut Israelis off of international travel.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that while IDF intelligence was unaware of any large-scale arms transfers from Syria into Lebanon in recent months, Hezbollah was nevertheless continuously working to improve its military capabilities and preparing for a violent confrontation with Israel, Channel 10 News reported Thursday.
Last week, Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon HaCohen, who recently retired from the IDF, said soldiers were constantly combing the Lebanese border area in search of cross-border tunnels that could be used by the Lebanese group to carry out deadly attacks on Israel’s northern towns and villages. Israel was carefully following the group’s activities, and believes it has gained crucial battlefield experience while fighting on the side of the Assad regime in the Syrian civil war.
Last month, another 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 could try to capture swaths of the Galilee with ground forces.
While Hezbollah is believed to have experience in digging tunnels, the IDF was not aware of any tunnels currently extending from southern Lebanon into Israel’s territory, the official said.
“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 infiltration into northern towns was possible without the use of tunnels.
The unnamed officer’s comments came after Channel 2 News in September aired an extensive report from the Lebanese border according to which the IDF army was “making plans and training” for what it expects to be “a very violent war” with Hezbollah.
That report, for which the army gave Channel 2 access to several of its posts along the border with Lebanon, featured an IDF brigade commander warning that such a conflict “will be a whole different story” from the summer war in Gaza 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 Iran-backed Hezbollah, “to act more decisively, more drastically,” said Colonel Dan Goldfus, commander of the 769th Hiram Infantry Brigade.
The report said Hezbollah has a rocket arsenal estimated at 100,000 rockets — 10 times more than Hamas had before the latest round of fighting — and that its 5,000 long-range missiles, located in Beirut and other areas deep inside Lebanon, are capable of carrying larger warheads of up to a ton and more, had precision guidance systems and could reach 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 with overwhelming force to prevail decisively in the conflict, Goldfus said.
Israel fought a bloody war against Hezbollah in 2006, during which more than 1,200 people in Lebanon were killed, mostly civilians, as well as some 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
Adiv Sterman and Marissa Newman contributed to this report.