Tags: israel | hezbollah | tension | northern border | military | christian

Israeli Residents Feel Ill Prepared Amid Tensions With Hezbollah

hezbollah flags at a rally
People with Hezbollah flags at the Hezbollah Political Party Rally in Baalbek in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, on May 13, 2022. (Francesca Volpi/Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 13 June 2023 09:58 AM EDT

Tensions between Israel and Hezbollah appear to be building on the Jewish state's northern border.

Last month, the Lebanese-based Hezbollah terror group held a war game simulation in southern Lebanon, where it invited various media outlets to witness a military-style drill showing off its strength and preparedness to face Israel in combat.

The terror group stated clearly that the exercise was designed to "Confirm our complete readiness to confront any aggression."

The simulation came just days before "Liberation Day," the annual celebration of the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon on May 25, 2000.

During the drill, Hezbollah fighters simulated an attack on the border wall separating Lebanon from Israel, as well as an 'mock' attack on Israel's northern towns, including a simulation of kidnapping an Israeli soldier.

The Iranian terrorist proxy group also showed off its drone technology, including counter-drone devices.

While the military exercise was not taken seriously by many military analysts, the drills were clearly designed to get Israel's attention.

The following week, Israel held its own military exercises, a two-week set of comprehensive military exercises, called "Firm Hand," designed to simulate a multifront war focused on its northern borders and with simulated strikes on Iran.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who visited the Israeli Defense Forces Northern Command during the exercises, warned Hezbollah during the visit.

"We know how to defend the citizens of Israel and how to strike our enemies with a decisive blow if, heaven forbid, they initiate a war with us," Gallant said at the time and threatened to bomb Hezbollah "into the stone age" if they attack Israel.

Hezbollah, however, continued to increase tensions over the weekend.

As the IDF was conducting engineering work on a new concrete wall inside Israeli territory, Lebanese citizens attempted to interfere with the work, throwing rocks at bulldozers and soldiers working to erect the new wall.

In the past, several Hezbollah-affiliated groups have attempted to provoke Israeli soldiers or destroy Israeli barricades.

In April, during Israel's celebration during the Passover holiday, a barrage of 34 rockets was launched at Israel from Lebanon. Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system was able to intercept 25 of the missiles, however, the attack caused damage and fires, and at least one person was injured from shrapnel. While no group officially claimed responsibility for the attack, Hezbollah indicated it was willing to take part in the conflict with Palestinian terror groups.

On Monday, the head of Hezbollah Executive Council Sayyed Hashem Safieddine warned Israel in an interview with Iran's Tasnim News Agency.

"If Israel makes any miscalculation, our missiles will hit Tel Aviv and the Radwan Unit will enter Galilee," Safieddine said.

"The clear message of the war game was that we are always prepared for whatever we have talked about so far, be it the Radwan Unit, entry into Galilee or a big and determining dream. It makes no difference. This is a serious and de facto message," he said, in reference to last month's simulation on the southern Lebanese border.

Maj.-Gen. Aharon Haliva, the IDF's head of military intelligence, recently warned, "The chances of an escalation that could spiral into war are not low. Nasrallah is close to making a mistake that could plunge the region into a big war. He is close to making this mistake from Lebanon or Syria."

Tal Be'eri, the director of research at the Alma Research & Education Center in northern Israel, said Hezbollah has significantly increased its activity and visibility recently, including its observation posts near Lebanon's southern border.

"There are now dozens of these zones in southern Lebanon. You won't see the Lebanese army entering these areas. Up until a year or two ago, posts like these were hidden from view," said Be'eri.

Be'eri recently told i24 News that Hezbollah has covertly increased its border presence via the Lebanese environmental organization, Green Without Borders. Hezbollah reportedly uses members of the organization to spy on Israel under the guise of planting trees near the border. In addition, Green Without Borders has reportedly established observation posts close to Israel's northern border, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

The last major confrontation between Hezbollah and Israel took place in 2006, when the terror group launched dozens of rockets at Israel, and captured two Israeli soldiers.

Analysts now believe that Hezbollah has over 150,000 medium range missiles capable of striking most of Israel, and a total of over 250,000 projectiles, including mortars, artillery, and short-range missiles.

While the previous conflict involved dozens of rockets over 33 days, the next one could see hundreds or thousands of rockets per day.

Israeli experts and residents of Israel's northern region are concerned that civilian infrastructure is not prepared for such a scenario.

Northern towns like Shlomi, home to nearly 10,000 people, is an example of the challenge that other northern communities face.

The town contains older houses which have no built-in shelters, and newer homes that contain shelters designed to stop the Katyusha rockets used by Palestinian militants in the last major conflict.

However, Hezbollah has reportedly been upgrading and increasing its arsenal of rockets from Iran, which neither party denies. Iran showed off what it called a 'hypersonic missile' capable of reaching Tel Aviv in 400 seconds, while an Iranian newspaper bragged that there are "150,000 Iranian missiles aimed at Israel in Lebanon!"

Yossi Luchi, head of Shlomi's local council, told i24 News that every home needs to have a shelter of its own.

"A war with Hezbollah may take 30 to 45 days of fighting with constant rocket fire. We can't expect people to sit in a shelter for such a long period," Luchi said.

While the government has promised to provide shelters many times in the past, residents do not expect anything to be done soon.

One Shlomi resident told i24: "Every government says they will take care of this, but they never do. Even if this government says it will do it, by the time it begins doing it, the government will be out."

Two Christian organizations – the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem (ICEJ) and Frontier Alliance International (FAI) – have stepped in to support Israeli communities in need of new bomb shelters. Both organizations are accepting donations, specifically to update communities that have old, outdated shelters, or are lacking sufficient shelters. At the moment, they are focusing on bomb shelters in the northern communities, where the need is greatest.

This article originally appeared on All Israel News and is reposted with permission.


Tensions between Israel and Hezbollah appear to be building on the Jewish state's northern border.
israel, hezbollah, tension, northern border, military, christian
Tuesday, 13 June 2023 09:58 AM
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