Photo Credit: Flash 90
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi attends a ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, June 17, 2022.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi cautioned Sunday that silence on Israel’s northern border is “more deceptive than ever,” as Hezbollah ratchets up its threats against the Jewish State over natural gas extraction from the disputed Karish gas field.

Speaking Sunday at a ceremony to mark the entrance of Major General Ori Gordin as head of the IDF Northern Command, Kochavi warned Lebanon and its Iranian proxy Hezbollah there would be a “sharp response” if Israeli assets or citizens are harmed.

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He praised outgoing Northern Command chief Amir Baram for improving the security situation in the north, his “operational plans, challenging exercises, preparation of the emergency warehouses and of infrastructure in the sector with an emphasis on the Northern Shield” operation.

Baram noted that under his command, the IDF’s Northern Command had prevented Hezbollah from carrying out attacks or opening another front on the Golan Heights border with Syria, thus preventing an escalation in the sector. He added that his command was engaged in preparing the critical mass on land “for the war centered in Lebanon.”

Kochavi told the incoming commander that he was taking up his position in a “complex period where silence is more deceptive than ever, and the challenges are – as always – many.”

Gordin’s operational experience and “broad understand, creativity and leadership,” he said, will “do their part, and you will do yours with them.”

“The operational activity on the northern front is an example of the exercise of military power that allows the front to be shaped and enables the State of Israel to realize its goals,” Kochavi said in his remarks.

In his own remarks, Gordin commented that the spectacular view from Mount Canaan, “the quietness and pastoral atmosphere in the Upper Galilee and Golan can deceive and not reflect the instability and tumultuous land to the east and north of our border, both in Syria and Lebanon.”

Gordin promised that under his command, “we will not commit the sin of complacency” and vowed to be “with two eyes open and a clenched fist, ready to act in the face of any attempt to threaten or create a reality that threatens the security of the citizens of Israel.”

“The State of Lebanon and Hezbollah will bear the consequences if the sovereignty of the State of Israel is harmed, and if its assets or citizens are harmed the IDF does not and will not stand by,” Kochavi said in his remarks.

“Any attempt to harm the State of Israel – in any arena – will be met with a sharp response or a preemptive initiative,” he said.

The chief of staff’s words reflected warnings from US intelligence and the IDF of a “reasonable possibility” there will soon be a military confrontation with Hezbollah.

US Intelligence, IDF Warn Hezbollah Preparing for War

Hezbollah has changed the deployment of its forces over the past 11 days and appears to be preparing for military action, according to a report published by Ma’ariv.

Both warnings were issued while US energy envoy Amos Hochstein was shuttling between Beirut and Jerusalem in his latest diplomatic effort to broker a maritime border agreement between Lebanon and Israel.

The talks have been slowly progressing towards a deal, but Hochstein told reporters as he left Lebanon that he was “very hopeful, but more work needs to be done.”

Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib told the An-Nahar newspaper on Saturday that the negotiations were “95 percent complete.” Bouhabib said he believes it is best to close a deal now, before Israel’s elections on November 1, when a new government may come into power, and after Lebanese elections in October, when “a president with a different approach and vision may come.”

Hezbollah has threatened repeatedly to attack Israel if gas extraction from the disputed offshore Karish field begins before a deal is sealed – but the UK-based Energean company licensed by Israel to extract the gas announced last Thursday it will begin the process “within weeks.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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