Hezbollah is no longer deterred by the IDF – analysis


As Hezbollah fired its largest rocket salvo towards Israel in 15 years, it became clear that the border with Lebanon has turned into another front where days of conflict can erupt at any moment.

The rocket fire on Friday morning surprised the thousands of Israeli tourists who were enjoying the summer vacation by kayaking on the Jordan River or hiking the dozens of trails through the hills of the Galilee and Golan Heights.

The clear blue skies were interrupted by rockets raining down and the Iron Dome missile defense intercepting them before they could do any harm.

The rocket fire came just days after three rockets had been fired by unnamed Palestinian militants towards the city of Kiryat Shmona, to which the IDF retaliated by three heavy rounds of artillery fire and then followed by airstrikes targeting the launch site and the road on which the militants had traveled.

Hezbollah was able to sit back and take the over 100 artillery shells fired by the IDF in response to the rocket fire, the fifth such incident since May.

But, striking the road was too much for Hezbollah. 

Many of Hezbollah’s capabilities and infrastructure are intertwined with the civilian infrastructure of Lebanon. And though Israel refrained from striking Lebanese infrastructure during the Second Lebanon War, Israeli officials have warned repeatedly that civilian infrastructure is now a legitimate target for IAF strikes.

“What happened days ago was very dangerous and a development that did not happen for 15 years,” Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech Saturday night, referring to the Israeli airstrikes.

“It was necessary for the response to the Israeli airstrike to be quick, or else it would have lost its value,” he continued, adding that the rocket barrage “was aimed at consolidating the equation of deterrence.”

According to Nasrallah, that equation meant targeting areas without civilians just like the IAF did with their airstrikes. The group didn’t target empty fields because Nasrallah didn’t want to escalate the situation with Israel, like IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ran Kohav told reporters following the rocket fire. 

The rocket attack “shows Hezbollah’s deterrence, as it fired at open areas,” Kohav said.

But that’s not how Nasrallah sees it. 

“We are not seeking a war but we are ready for it and we do not fear it,” Nasrallah threatened.

Neither Israel nor Hezbollah and definitely not Lebanon are itching for war any time soon.

Noone wants it, and no one can afford it.

Israel is experiencing a new wave of the coronavirus and Lebanon is going through the most devastating economic and social collapse. And despite what Nasrallah says, Hezbollah is not immune to that collapse.

The IDF long believed that any outbreak of violence with the Shiite terror army would lead to an all-out war, but a military intelligence assessment released in February said that instead, they expect there could be more limited rounds of violence, like with the Gaza Strip.

But those limited rounds of violence always have the possibility of causing an all-out war should civilians, or even soldiers, are killed.  

And in the 15 years since the Second Lebanon war, both Israel and Hezbollah have significantly increased their capabilities that will cause untold damage and cause significant casualties to both sides. 

With the help of Iran, the group has rebuilt its arsenal since 2006 and it is estimated that Hezbollah has between 130,000-150,000 rockets and missiles, many that can reach deep into Israel, including ballistic missiles with a range of 700 kilometers.

It is believed that in the next war, Hezbollah will try to fire some 1,500-3,000 rockets per day until the last day of the conflict. To compare it with Gaza, the last round of fighting with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in May saw over 4,000 rockets in 11 days.  

But any short conflict with Hezbollah will be much deadlier than with terror groups in the Gaza Strip

And like fighting in the South now sends residents of Tel Aviv, and even Jerusalem, running to shelters, so will fighting with Hezbollah. 

Israelis across the country need to be ready for that. 

Because Hezbollah has made it clear that they will continue to challenge Israel, despite the real risk of deteriorating into a full blown war.