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Peace and Conflict

“Hezbollah has gone up half a click” says Gallant, amid further attacks in the north | Update 16th February 2024

“Hezbollah has gone up half a click” says Gallant, amid further attacks in the north via BICom

What happened: The IDF struck a number of Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon yesterday, in response to a four-hour barrage in which Hezbollah fired 25 rockets on Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel.

  • No Israeli injuries were reported, but several homes in Kiryat Shmona suffered direct hits and were badly damaged. Some parts of the city remain without electricity after a rocket hit a pylon.
  • Earlier yesterday, other northern communities came under fire, including three anti-tank missiles fired at Shtula and a rocket at Mount Dov. No injuries were suffered.
  • Hezbollah targets hit by the IDF included rocket launching positions, buildings, and other infrastructure used by the terror group in the Wadi Saluki area. Further Hezbollah targets were hit in Labbouneh and Taybeh.
  • Israel confirmed Hezbollah’s announcement that the IDF had killed Ali Muhammad al-Dabs, a senior commander in Hezbollah’s elite Radwan Force overnight Wednesday, along with his deputy, Hassan Ibrahim Issa.
  • Defence Minister Gallant said that, “Hezbollah has gone up half a click” in the intensity of its attacks. In response, Israel has “gone up one step, but it is [only] one step out of ten,” Gallant warned. We can attack not [only a distance of] 20 kilometres [north of the border, inside Lebanon] but even at 50 km, in Beirut and everywhere else. The IDF has a lot more power, [and it is] very, very significant.”
  • Gallant said, “The aircraft that are in the air right now over Lebanon’s skies have targets, and they know how to change their attacks from place to place. In the event of war, the costs to the State of Israel will be heavy, but [they will be] catastrophic for Lebanon and for Hezbollah. We would do well to act in accordance with the ancient Roman dictum ‘hope for peace, prepare for war.’”
  • “We do not want to reach this situation, we do not want to enter into a war, but rather wish to reach an agreement that will allow the safe return of residents of the north to their homes, under an agreement process.”
  • “But if there is no choice, we will act to bring [the residents] back and create the appropriate security for them. This should be clear to both our enemies and our friends. And as the State of Israel, the defence establishment, and the IDF have proven in recent months, when we say something, we mean it.”

Context: 80,000 northern Israelis remain displaced following Hezbollah’s escalation of hostilities and near-daily bombardment of the north after October 7th. Around 100,000 southern Lebanese are also displaced.

  • Well over 2,000 rockets have been fired by Hezbollah in that time, killing 16 Israelis. In response, Israel has struck around 3,500 Hezbollah targets, killing over 200 combatants.
  • Hezbollah is using increasingly sophisticated weaponry compared to previous escalations with Israel, including Iranian-produced Almas anti-tank guided missiles with a 10-kilometre range.
  • On Wednesday, an IDF soldier was killed and eight other people wounded in the northern city of Safed following a rocket barrage targeting the IDF’s Northern Command headquarters. On Tuesday, a 15-year-old boy was seriously wounded and his mother moderately wounded by rockets fired towards Kiryat Shmona.
  • Also on Tuesday, France submitted a proposal to Lebanon to secure a ceasefire and resolve Lebanon’s border disputes with Israel. The proposal would see Hezbollah withdraw roughly ten kilometres from the Israeli border (less than it is commanded to do by UN Resolution 1701), and to dismantle its military infrastructure within that zone. Some 15,000 Lebanese army troops would be deployed in the area to ensure future compliance with the buffer zone. In response, Hezbollah said it would not comment until a ceasefire had been effected in Gaza.
  • The US also continues to try to prevent further escalation. Amos Hochstein, one of the architects of the 2023 Maritime Agreement between Israel and Lebanon has been leading its efforts. Partly at issue are 16 disputed points along the Israel-Lebanon border.
  • Despite these diplomatic efforts, both the IDF and civilian partners are preparing for an escalation to all-out war in the north.
  • Gallant’s comments were made during a meeting of the National Emergency Preparedness Committee regarding home front preparedness in the event of all-out war. The meeting prepared for a scenario in which escalation caused difficulties supplying electricity and energy to Israel, and difficulties transporting food and evacuating the wounded to hospitals.
  • The meeting was inter-agency, and included the Defence, Communications, Interior, and Health ministries, the Prime Minister's Office, the National Emergency Management Agency, the IDF Home Front Command, the Federation of Local Authorities, officials from various northern cities, and representatives from the security establishment.
  • There are fears that a Hezbollah escalation would likely target Israel’s energy supply, which would have a significant national impact.
  • Last week, the Israel Air Force (IAF) held other preparations for northern escalation, including “an operational conference” for all commanders in the IAF from the rank of Lt. Col.
  • Israel has identified al-Dabs as the mastermind of the March 2023 attack in Megiddo in northern Israel, in which one Israeli was injured, and of planning further attacks inside Israel.
  • Lebanese security sources told AFP that al-Dabs had already been targeted and injured in an IDF attack in southern Lebanon town of Nabatieh last week.
  • He had connections to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and was helping Iran set up air defences in Syria. Lebanese media also identified him as being one of Hezbollah’s key leaders on Palestinian affairs, while Israeli media identified him as Hezbollah’s regional commander in Khiam.

Looking ahead: Gallant has instructed the IDF Northern Command to prepare a public awareness campaign to inform remaining northern residents on how to prepare for war.

  • Home Front Command is keen to avoid such a campaign causing panic, and it will look to strike a balance between necessary awareness and undue alarm.

via BICom