What the Third Lebanon War will look like
The IDF is preparing for the next confrontation with Hezbollah, which was dangerously close to breaking out in the winter, with new tactics, like creation of artificial cliffs to prevent infiltrations.
It’s late summer, and all is quiet on the northern front. On the Lebanese side of the border, the extreme heat has driven shepherds and their wards to the shade. Lebanese army and UNIFIL troops take cover at their posts, and Hezbollah’s operatives – those who are still in south Lebanon and have not been sent to fight in Syria – collect intelligence on us.
The UN Security Council established after the Second Lebanon War that Hassan Nasrallah’s people are forbidden to openly move along the border fence, armed, and provoke Israeli soldiers. They are careful to abide by the rules, but they are here, utilizing all the new technology Iran has provided to ensure that the IDF is not entering Lebanese territory. Meanwhile, they prepare “surprises” to hurt Israel during the next conflict – just like Hamas in Gaza.
While Hezbollah is deeply submerged in the Syrian quagmire, and despite a substantial interest in avoiding confrontation with Israel, over the past year the organization’s leadership has been preparing for the Third Lebanon War as though it will begin tomorrow. This derives mainly from a decision by Nasrallah and members of Iran’s Quds Force about a year ago to change the strategy towards Israel.
This strategy is aimed at deterring Israel from pinpoint actions the IDF occasionally takes to foil terrorism and strengthening of Hezbollah (known in the IDF as a battle between the wars). Fighting Israel provides Hezbollah with the legitimacy it needs to arm itself in Lebanon and battle in Syria.
It was hence decided to treat Lebanon and Syria as a single front against Israel and to respond to any significant attacks attributed to the IDF, even if the result is escalation that leads to destruction and many casualties on both sides.
This almost happened in January. An airstrike on senior Hezbollah field commanders, which killed Jihad Mughniyeh and several others, including an Iranian general, was attributed by Hezbollah and Iran to Israel. According to evidence on the ground and intelligence information, a decision was made to carry out a retaliatory attack.
The IDF and Hezbollah both prepared for the possibility that this response could spark a larger conflagration. Major General Aviv Kokhabi, head of the IDF’s Northern Command, was in the middle of preparing orders for a possible counterattack when news broke of Hezbollah’s retaliation. The organization fired anti-tank missiles from Lebanon at an IDF convoy on its way to Mount Dov, killing two Givati soldiers. Thanks to troops’ alertness and speed, much greater loss of life was prevented.
The leadership on both sides could therefore decide that the account was more or less settled. But only a minority of the Israeli public realizes how close we were at noon on January 28, 2015 to the outbreak of the Third Lebanon War.
Under these circumstances, it’s only natural that the commander of the IDF’s Sword Battalion, Colonel Alon Madanes, considers the Lebanese border to be a front that is currently quiet, but could boil over within hours. Madanes and his battalion are responsible for the western sector of the border area, which contains 165,000 residents in 55 towns.
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