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For the first time in decades, enemy forces can attack all of Israel’s cities, Chief of the IDF Intelligence Directorate Major General Aviv Kochavi said last week. “About 170,000 rockets and missiles are pointed at Israel, and they are deadlier than ever,” the Intelligence Chief said. “Many of these weapons can be fired deep into Israel’s territory.”
Speaking at the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), Maj. Gen. Kochavi described Israel’s evolving security challenges, ranging from regional instability to organized terrorism and Global Jihad. “Every day, the enemy continues to advance,” he said. “For the first time in many years, Israel is almost completely surrounded by threats. These are not merely potential threats, but rather threats posed by an active enemy.”
Maj. Gen. Kochavi estimated that Hezbollah now possesses 100,000 rockets and missiles threatening Israel from its northern border. The extraordinary size of this stockpile redefines Hezbollah’s capabilities, placing it in the category of a “semi-military” organization. “Hezbollah is no longer a terrorist organization in the most basic sense of the term,” the intelligence chief stressed. “An organization that has more than 100,000 rockets resembles a military more than a terrorist organization.”
This change in definition applies to terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East, Maj. Gen. Kochavi stressed, warning, “The line between ‘terrorist organization’ and ‘military’ is becoming increasingly blurred. They possess advanced anti-tank missiles and mortars. The same goes for Hamas,” whose rockets threaten millions of Israeli civilians.
“Thousands of our enemies’ missiles are armed with warheads and 700-900 kilograms of explosive material,” the intelligence chief said. “These weapons can define the course of war and our decision making. As long as our enemies have rockets that threaten every part of Israel, they can continue to wage a war, even after we have taken parts of enemy territory.”
Terrorist groups near Israel have changed the nature of war, moving from open spaces into urban areas. “The enemy is hiding in cities and villages, wearing civilian clothing while equipped with advanced weaponry. Tens of kilometers of underground tunnels exist in Gaza and Southern Lebanon.”
Maj. Gen. Kochavi related to the regional shift against Israel and the West. In the wake of the Arab Spring, governments throughout the Middle East have lost control of their populations. This widespread phenomenon of fragmentation has confronted Israel with an uncertain reality. “The Syrian side of the Golan region has fallen under the control of several different powers,” Maj. Gen. Kochavi said. “Every village is controlled by different authorities, including the Syrian Free Army, Jihadist groups and the Syrian military.”
The intelligence chief pointed to Global Jihad as “the most troubling phenomenon of all,” explaining that about 30,000 Global Jihad operatives are active in Syria. “Syria has turned into a magnet for these operatives – from Europe, Asia, Australia and even the Americas,” he said. “They may not take over Haifa, but for the first time in history, they are injecting a radical religious ideology against the West into the Middle East.” Maj. Gen. Kochavi focused on similar challenges in the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, where a changing landscape is creating uncertainty for Israel. “All of the small groups in these areas can become larger. This creates a tremendous challenge for the Intelligence Corps.”
Such rapid changes in the region’s geopolitical scene and military buildup require that the IDF quickly enhance its readiness for the new threats, improving its intelligence capabilities to maintain its edge over the enemy. Advancements in cyber defense constitute a major part of these efforts. “Today, the intelligence we used to gather with 40 people is now obtained by four,” Maj. Gen. Kochavi said. “Cyber defense, in my modest opinion, will soon be revealed to be the biggest military revolution in the past century, more than gunpowder and the use of air power.”
As he discussed upgraded capabilities in the airforce and the navy, Maj. Gen. Kochavi focused on Israel’s tremendous strides in intelligence. “We are upgrading our units in order to obtain intelligence through greater means,” he said. “We are obtaining better-processed and more diverse intelligence from more sources, and we are providing it to our fighters.”
Maj. Gen. Kochavi added that the cyber world offered a great opportunity for Israel’s growth, but the threat of cyber warfare is growing significantly and there have been many attacks on the security establishment.
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