Hezbollah Sends Reassuring Messages to Israel Amid Syria Strike, IDF Drills Near Lebanon

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Hezbollah has sent reassuring messages to Israel in wake of the bombing of the Syrian weapons plant attributed to Israel and the IDF’s large military exercise up north.

The number two man in the organization, deputy secretary general Sheikh Naim Qassem, said in a television interview broadcast on Sunday that the attack on the Syrian facility was not a reason for war against Israel and there were other ways to respond to the attack.

>> Why Syria Hasn't Retaliated to the Alleged Israeli Strike

Arab media reported that the weapons facility, west of the city of Hama, which was bombed last Thursday was part of a Syrian weapons manufacturing complex. It was recently involved in a Syrian-Iranian project to improve the accuracy of missiles and rockets to be provided to Hezbollah, said the reports.

Even though the Syrian regime has accused Israel of carrying out the attack, which Syria says killed two people, Damascus has avoided seriously threatening Israel with retaliation. Qassem said in the interview that the decision on the nature of the response was not in Hezbollah’s hands, but in those of the Assad regime in Syria.

It has been reported that Israeli Air Force planes flew at low altitudes in southern Lebanon on Sunday and caused sonic booms over the town of Saida and the Ain El Hilweh refugee camp near Sidon. Qassem said the Israeli corps-level exercise does not imply an Israeli intention to start a war, but is about the IDF’s preparations for a possible war in the future.

Hezbollah fighters operating in Western Qalamoun, Syria, August 23, 2017.Credit: OMAR SANADIKI/REUTERS

In the exercise, Israeli forces practiced the shift from defensive positions to an attack. The scenario for the exercise included a surprise attack by Hezbollah on an Israeli community along the Lebanese border and the IDF’s retaking of the community after a battle with heavy casualties. The exercise involves handling Hezbollah’s defensive positions, while systematically attacking its headquarters, weapons and units – as well as trying to gradually reduce rocket fire into Israel.

In the case of a war with Hezbollah, the army is prepared for the possibility of such a surprise attack, said a senior IDF officer in a meeting with reporters at Northern Command headquarters. Hezbollah is not capable of holding on to Israeli territory for any prolonged period, he said. As opposed to the period of the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, the assumption is that Hezbollah will try to carry out a limited attack to seize a small amount of Israeli territory along the border, said the senior officer.

The institutionalization of Hezbollah’s organizational structure resulting from its participation in the Syrian civil war as well as its operational model as a semi-military organization, has created a fixed routine exposing its weak points, said other senior officers who spoke with the reporters. They added the IDF will try to expose these weak points in the next war with Hezbollah.

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