Site of a Hezbollah rocket strike, AP, 2006
A policeman at the site of a Hezbollah rocket strike in Nahariya during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Photo by AP
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Israel expects the next war against Hezbollah will last two months, during which 24,000 to 36,000 rockets and missiles are expected to be launched at Israel − about 6,000 of them aimed at Tel Aviv, Wikileaks documents reveal.

Telegrams sent from the U.S. Embassy summing up talks between American and Israeli officials in November 2009 cite a Mossad official as saying Hezbollah is expected to launch 400-600 missiles at Israel a day − 100 of which will be aimed at Tel Aviv, over the course of two months.

The talks were held between American and Israeli defense and intelligence officials in Israel, as part of the strategic dialogue between the countries entitled the Joint Political Military Group, which was established in 1983. The American delegation was headed by State Department official Robert Maggi and the Israeli delegation was headed by then-Defense Ministry Director General Pinhas Buchris.

This was the group’s fourth meeting. On November 18 the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv sent the first of four telegrams summarizing the talks, which spanned various issues including the Iranian nuclear program, the situation in Iraq and Gaza, Israel-Egypt relations, the peace process with the Palestinians and Israel’s future war with Hezbollah.

“The IDF and Israel Defense Intelligence argued that Hezbollah’s ultimate goal during any future conflict is to launch a massive number of missiles and rockets daily into Israeli territory, including those that can reach the Tel Aviv area,” the telegram said.

“Defense officials highlighted the continued desire by Hezbollah to avenge the assassination of its former military commander Imad Mughniyah, and pointed to failed attempts to do so in Azerbaijan and Egypt.”

The Israelis argued “smuggling [from Syria and Iran to Hezbollah] represents a strategic challenge for Israel ... and is severely limiting its diplomatic options for peace.”

The Israelis said that since the Second Lebanon War Hezbollah “increased its quantity of sophisticated arms with improved range and accuracy.”

Military Intelligence officers presented estimates of Hezbollah’s arsenal in Lebanon. “Hezbollah possesses over 20,000 rockets, hundreds of 220 mm and 302 mm rockets, several hundred Fajr rockets, hundreds of simple anti-tank ‏(AT‏) launchers with rockets and missiles, and hundreds of advanced anti-tank wire guided missiles ‏(ATGM‏), dozens of SA-14, SA-7 and QW-1 anti-aircraft guns, several Ababil unmanned aerial vehicles ‏(UAVs‏), an unknown quantity of C-802 coastal missiles and up to thousands of improvised explosive devices ‏(IEDs‏).”

An Israeli officer said “Hezbollah was preparing for a long conflict with Israel in which it hopes to launch a massive number of rockets at Israel per day.”

“In the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Tel Aviv was left untouched − Hezbollah will try to change the equation during the next round and disrupt everyday life in Tel Aviv,” the officer is quoted as saying.

A Mossad official said “Hezbollah will want to ensure it can launch rockets and missiles to the very last day of the conflict ... Hezbollah will try to launch 400-600 rockets and missiles at Israel per day − 100 of which will be aimed at Tel Aviv ... [and] sustain such launches for at least two months.”

This means Israel expects a war that would last up to two months, during which 24,000 to 36,000 rockets and missiles would be launched into its territory, about 6,000 of them aimed at Tel Aviv.

An argument erupted between the Israeli and American officials about the American arms supplies to the Lebanese Armed Forces, also known as the Lebanese Army. The Israelis complained about it, saying they could fall into Hezbollah’s hands. The Americans said the aid to the LAF was intended to prevent it from growing closer to Hezbollah and stressed the “U.S. support of the LAF as a counterweight to Hezbollah.”

Amos Gilad, director of policy and political-military affairs at the Defense Ministry, completely disagreed with this approach. He said “the Lebanese Army will come to the defense of Hezbollah if attacked by Israel. Thus, a strengthened LAF hurts Israel.”

This was not mentioned in the discussions, but at the time foreign media reported that an Israeli spy ring had been captured in Lebanon. The Lebanese government said it had caught dozens of Lebanese nationals − some of them former senior military and intelligence officers − following cooperation between Hezbollah and Lebanese intelligence. The suspects had confessed they had spied for Israel and some of them were sentenced to death.