Senior IDF Official: Hezbollah Controls Lebanon's Army, We Won't Distinguish Between Them in Next War

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An Israeli military vehicle near the wall on the Israel-Lebanon border and a position of Lebanese military soldiers, September 5, 2018.
An Israeli military vehicle near the wall on the Israel-Lebanon border and a position of Lebanese military soldiers, September 5, 2018.Credit: Rami Shllush

Hezbollah has been gaining strength in Lebanon in recent years and is virtually in control of the Lebanese army, a senior Israeli commander said Wednesday. He noted that Israel will not distinguish between the militia and the country's forces during the next military confrontation.

"The distinction we made between Hezbollah and Lebanon during the Second Lebanon War was a mistake," the senior officer in the Northern Command said about the 2006 conflict. "In the next war we will not make this distinction. We will hit Lebanon and any infrastructure that would contribute to the fighting." 

"If the choice is between pummeling Lebanon or making a distinction between Lebanon and Hezbollah, I'll take pummeling Lebanon," the officer added.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, along the northern border Hezbollah outposts are deployed, where the organization's fighters are stationed - sometimes just a few of them, and sometimes several dozen. In case of war, these fighters are to be reinforced by additional forces coming from nearby villages. The officer estimated that this contingency is meant to stop the maneuvering of the Israeli forces when they enter Lebanese territory, until additional forces are ready.

"Hezbollah upgraded its capabilities through its fighting in Syria," the officer said. "It gained confidence in the fighting, but today it can't enter Israeli territory with large forces and hold the ground." According to the officer, during the fighting, the organization will try to carry out a pinpoint penetration into Israeli territory to create a cognitive effect.

The IDF says that in recent years the army has been strengthening the line of defense inside and outside the settlements on the border with Lebanon, with its flagship project being the construction of a wall with observation and intelligence gathering means that allow the army to increase its intelligence on the affairs on the other side of the border. According to the military, the part of the wall that has been built reaches 11 kilometers, with the goal of increasing it to 130 kilometers. At this stage there is a budget for the construction of another 13 kilometers, but no budget has yet been identified for the entire wall, estimated at 1.7 billion shekels.

The officer, who reviewed Israel's challenges on the northern front, noted that the military does not believe Hezbollah today is interested in another round of conflict.

The IDF officer said that Hezbollah's secretary-general's statements are meaningless and do not indicate the organization's true intentions. "Nasrallah lives in a bunker and is still deterred by the Second Lebanon War," the officer said. "On the other side, too, they know very well that the challenges they faced in the fighting in Syria are nothing compared to the challenges they will face with the IDF. The recent elections led to a stronger Hezbollah in Lebanese politics, and therefore the organization will not be willing to pay any price to harm its influence there."

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