The big question: Will the threats and counter threats trigger an actual shooting war?
Today, the fear is that in the next Lebanon War Hezbollah could fire upwards of 4,000 missiles a day, overwhelming Israeli defenses and leading to catastrophic casualties and damage.
To get a better picture of the situation, I interviewed Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz last week.
Now, I’ve traveled with a crew from CBN News in Jerusalem to an IDF base in Rosh HaNikra, right on the Israel-Lebanon border.
We received a briefing from two intelligence officials on the spiking tensions.
We then traveled along the border, viewing Hezbollah outposts and interviewing Lt.-Colonel (res.) Sarit Zehavi.
Zehavi spent 15 years in IDF intelligence and is now the founder and director of Alma, a nonprofit and an independent research and education center specializing in Israel’s security challenges on its northern border.
In the first of my series of reports, I want to begin by briefing you on the war of words, and the timing of the escalated threats.
On Feb. 16, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah warned:
“After all the recent threats from Israel, no one can guarantee that it won’t lead to war. Israel will see things it hasn’t seen since its inception.”
“If the IDF bombs our military targets, we can also attack Israel’s military targets. If Israel bombs cities in Lebanon, we’ll bomb cities in Israel. And if it bombs villages in Lebanon, we’ll bomb Israeli settlements.”
“No one can guarantee that a few days of combat won’t lead to wider war.”
The occasion was Nasrallah’s annual “Martyrs Day” speech, commemorating the assassination of several revered Hezbollah commanders over the years, for which Nasrallah has previously vowed to retaliate against Israel.
That same day, the Israeli Air Force launched a massive and surprise war game exercise in which Hezbollah attacks Israel and the IDF responds with overwhelming forces.
As a senior IDF officer said: “We practiced attacking high-value targets in quantities and in a way that we never did before. It was 24 hours with more than 3,000 targets attacked, causing severe damage to the operations of the enemy.”
Two days later, on Feb. 18, Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned:
“If it comes to battle, Hezbollah will take a serious hit and Lebanon will feel it.”
“Even now, in spite of the fact that Israel has the strongest armed forces in the Middle East, we are still on the receiving end of threats of war.”
“And, in fact, if it comes to that, it would be difficult for the Israeli homefront, but it would be considerably more difficult for our enemies.”
“This is true in particular of Hezbollah and Hamas, both of whom are violating international law by developing offensive capacity for operation within civilian populations.”
“Facing that type of threat, the IDF is prepared to use whatever force necessary. Hezbollah would take a serious hit, and Lebanon would feel it.”
Gantz was speaking at a memorial service honoring the death of unknown Israeli soldiers.
In part two of my series, I’ll share with you what I learned from my visit to the border.
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