Hezbollah Threat Prompts Israel to Boost Anti-missile Protection at 20 Strategic Sites

Military identifies key sites as potential targets, as Iran-backed Lebanese group working to improve missile precision

A building in Ashdod that was damaged by a rocket, May 2019.
Moti Milrod

The Israeli army's Home Front Command plans to provide anti-missile protection to 20 key sites throughout the country, amid concern among defense officials that Hezbollah will target them.

According to intelligence assessments, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah may order strikes on strategic sites in Israel in order to weaken Israel's fighting capability and obtain a propaganda victory.

Because of these assessments, and following a 2016 state comptroller report that found flaws in existing protections, the Home Front Command has mapped out strategic sites that could be attack targets. According to the command, damage to these sites could bring daily life to a halt for a lengthy period of time during an emergency.

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The military has decided to shield several sites in every part of the country. At these sites, the military will construct walls made of reinforced concrete, strengthen ceilings and install blast-proof doors and anti-shrapnel protection.

Hezbollah does not currently possess a missile system that it can use to target strategic sites, but the group has been, with the help of Iran, able to improve the precision targeting capabilities of its missiles. Some of the airstrikes attributed to Israel in Syria were reportedly aimed at thwarting the group's attempts to smuggle means to increase its missiles' precision – but defense officials believe Hezbollah may already have a small number of precision missiles that could threaten strategic sites.

The threat also comes from the Gaza Strip, but the groups based there have a more limited ability to target specific sites. Hezbollah also possesses a larger arsenal of missiles, meaning that large-scale fire from the north increases the statistical chance of striking an important site.

Nasrallah recently mentioned strategic sites in Israel that he claimed are within range. In a television interview, Nasrallah presented a map of Israel and said that "Hezbollah can cause massive damage."

According to Nasrallah, the coastal area between Netanya and Ashdod is "the most strategic area. This area included sites like the airport, weapons depots, the Tel Aviv and Ashdod ports, and more." In the interview, held to mark 13 years since the Second Lebanon War, Nasrallah said Hezbollah has significantly increased its capabilities. "We have more advanced offensive weapons, in terms of both quality and quantity," he said. "We have precision missiles and drones."

The comptroller's report released three years ago asserted that Israel is prepared for the possibility of the rocket and missile threat. The comptroller wrote that the Energy Minister and national electric company did not have an up-to-date plan to deal with missile fire or natural disasters. The report further warned that the government and emergency services needed to address this urgently.

In 2018, the government earmarked a 150-million shekel ($42 million) budget for protecting buildings around the country from rockets, with the highest priority being public buildings and national infrastructure.

Besides issuing a tender for work protecting infrastructure sites, the Home Front Command and Defense Ministry asked private companies to suggest ways to protect homes that do not have shelters. Also last year, the Home Front Command's chief said that 2.5 million Israelis do not have adequate protection from rockets, with some 700,000 homes lacking protection.