Hezbollah, a terrorist organization based in Southern Lebanon, threatens Israel’s security every day.The terrorist organization has 100,000 rockets capable of hitting anywhere in Israel and is funded and supported by Iran. Last week, in a series of interviews on Israeli television, the IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Benny Gantz stressed that preparations for a military operation in Lebanon is a possible, realistic and necessary scenario. We spoke to a senior colonel responsible for training on the northern border in order to discover how the IDF intends to counter this threat.
The situation in Southern Lebanon
IDF forces know that a future confrontation with Hezbollah is inevitable and will be highly complex. IDF soldiers must learn and apply unique methods of combat. The IDF colonel responsible for training fighters on the northern border has the difficult responsibility to create the most realistic terrain simulations in order to train these soldiers.
Hezbollah, rooted in southern Lebanon, uses this region as it sees fit. Taking orders from Iran, the terrorist organization has for years been using Lebanese civilian infrastructure in order to prepare for its next confrontation with Israel. “The villages based in Southern Lebanon have become a training camp. Wherever you are, in every house, a member of Hezbollah is watching. The Lebanese cannot live a normal life under the control of Hezbollah,” the commander of the northern forces said.
This callous use of the Lebanese population by Hezbollah is not new. During the Second Lebanon War, the terrorist organization used the homes of Lebanese civilians as weapon caches and firing positions. “After several years of uneasy calm in the region, we know that Hezbollah is more thoroughly embedded in the civilian population of Southern Lebanon,” said the northern commander.
The telephone network of the Lebanese state, for example, has repeatedly been infiltrated by the terrorist organization to secure its own communications. But Hezbollah goes even further in its exploitation of Lebanese territory. Hamas in the Gaza Strip has been in the news digging tunnels into Israel. “Hezbollah has more funds and more capability than Hamas, and they are doing exactly the same thing,” the northern commander said. Hezbollah tunnels are a real danger to IDF soldiers stationed at the border. Hezbollah terrorists can use them to abduct soldiers or to prepare ambushes during ground operations in a future conflict.
Hezbollah in Syria
Hezbollah takes the possibility of a ground operation very seriously. The terror organization has been engaged in the Syrian civil war, and uses this conflict as training for the future.
“Hezbollah invests a lot of energy in Syria. It is on the offensive and even though it has lost many men, this conflict gives the Hezbollah fighters comprehensive training for the next conflict with Israel,” said the northern commander.
IDF stands ready
Faced with this continuing and increasingly complex threat, the IDF has established training strategies and fighting techniques that will ensure the security of Israel over the long term.
Beyond physical training, IDF soldiers are placed under conditions of urban warfare to better understand the reality of the enemy territory. “Soldiers train in military bases modeled after villages in Lebanese territory,” said the colonel.
“Indeed, in any upcoming battles with Hezbollah, there will be no other choice but to conduct a large ground operation. We must find every place where Hezbollah is hiding. Today, Hezbollah is dug in amid a civilian population and we must prepare for this,” said the colonel.
The lessons of the Second Lebanon War continue today. In that confrontation with the Lebanese Shiite militia in 2006, the emphasis was put on cooperation between the different branches of the military in order to achieve maximum effectiveness against terrorists embedded within the civilian population.
“The forces on the ground, fighters in tanks, helicopters and fighter planes are more ready than ever and trained to work with the IDF Intelligence Corps in emergency situations,” the northern comander said.
Throughout the interview, the northern commander insisted on the professionalism expected from soldiers on the ground. This professionalism results from hours of training, preparing the soldiers for all the circumstances they could face with the enemy, including: civilians in the combat zone, ambushes and attempted abduction. It is this value of maximum preparation that will ultimately ensure Israel’s safety.