Touring IDF drill, Netanyahu threatens Hezbollah with ‘steel fist’

PM says he sees improvement in Israeli military’s capabilities as he visits largest exercise of the year; issues warning to both terror group and Lebanon

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) visits a military drill in northern Israel on October 28, 2020. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) visits a military drill in northern Israel on October 28, 2020. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hezbollah on Wednesday against attacking Israel, as he visited a large-scale military drill in the north of the country simulating a war against the Lebanese terror group.

“Even during the coronavirus, our enemies are not stagnant and neither are we. In this exercise I have been impressed by the vast improvement in the IDF’s offensive capabilities,” Netanyahu said. “Hezbollah and the state of Lebanon should take this into account. Whoever attacks us will encounter firepower and a steel fist that will destroy any enemy.”

The Israel Defense Forces launched the drill on Sunday, saying it was aimed at improving the military’s offensive capability.

The multi-day drill — dubbed “Deadly Arrow” — predominantly focused on how various headquarters and command centers work together and communicate in wartime, the military said.

An Israeli soldier, mask-clad due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, stands guard next to an outpost and army humvees (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle – HMMWV) during the ‘Deadly Arrow’ military drill in the northern part of Israel on October 27, 2020. (Jalaa Marey/AFP)

The exercise also included physical maneuvers by ground forces, naval vessels and aircraft.

“The goal of the exercise is improving the IDF’s attack ability and testing all levels [of the military] in an integrated way,” the IDF said in a statement.

The military said the exercise would simulate a “multi-front scenario focused on the northern arena.”

Hezbollah terrorists stand in formation at a rally to mark Jerusalem Day, or Al-Quds Day, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on May 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

The IDF believes that any future war against the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group would not only be waged in southern Lebanon, but would also include attacks from Syria and potentially the Gaza Strip as well.

The exercise — the largest planned for this year — was significantly scaled back due to restrictions because of the coronavirus and the IDF said it was being held under full adherence to health regulations.

Nonetheless, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi faced concerns and criticism within the military over his decision to go ahead with the exercise despite the pandemic.

The IDF generally considers the Hezbollah terror group to be its most significant military foe. The Iran-backed Shiite militia, with whom Israel fought a war in 2006, is believed to maintain an arsenal of some 130,000 rockets and missiles — a larger collection of projectiles than many nations possess — and the organization has amassed considerable battle experience from fighting in Syria throughout the country’s civil war.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (L) visits a military drill in northern Israel on October 27, 2020. (Tal Oz/Defense Ministry)

However, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Tuesday he was “hearing positive voices coming out of Lebanon, who are even talking about peace with Israel.”

Gantz, speaking during a tour of northern Israel, did not specify which Lebanese comments he was referring to. But they came a day after Claudine Aoun, daughter of Lebanese President Michel Aoun, told Al Jadeed TV that peace with Israel would be conceivable if outstanding issues were resolved.

Aoun’s comments came ahead of a second round of maritime border talks between Israel and Lebanon to allow for offshore energy exploration, the first day of which concluded on Wednesday.

Hezbollah, which is also a major force in Lebanese politics, has criticized the maritime discussions.

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