Recently Hizbollah, the Iranian-financed proxy which terrorizes and controls the no-man’s land of Southern Lebanon, has been making warlike noises. It is strongly suspected that Israel may once again be involved in a war with this group as it was four years ago.
However, unlike the last time when Israel was seduced into a loosing war against forces that used guerilla tactics that Israel was ill prepared to fight against, this time will be different.
The Golani brigade ( Golan = Northern Israel, along the Lebanon, Syria border) has been working to prepare for a war which it was ill-prepared to fight the last time it was forced to engage Hizbollah.
Last week, long before setting off on their post-army treks to the Amazon rainforest, the fighters of the Golani infantry brigade’s reconnaissance battalion spent long hours in the tangle of woods near southern Mount Carmel. In the natural terrain around the Elyakim training base, the army has constructed outposts resembling as closely as possible Hezbollah’s extensive system of bunkers and emplacements in nature reserves in southern Lebanon, which it failed to cope with during the Second Lebanon War.
Almost four years later – July 12 will mark the anniversary of the war’s outbreak; the Hebrew date was marked in a ceremony this week – the Israel Defense Forces is training intensively in combat tactics suited to Lebanon, with the aim of achieving better results in a potential next round of fighting.
The IDF knew about the nature reserves in Lebanon from which Hezbollah launched rockets in 2006 before the last war, but much of the relevant information did not make its way to the combat units. On July 19, 2006, when the elite unit Maglan found itself in the heart of the first Lebanese nature reserve the IDF encountered in the war – on a hill overlooking Moshav Avivim, just across the border – the detailed intelligence about the site sat in sealed crates: Military Intelligence had not made it available to the forces in time, claiming it was too highly classified
Three days later, after the nearby village of Maroun al-Ras was captured, Col. Haggai Mordechai – the commander of the Paratroops Brigade at the time – said that only then did he understand the character of the nature reserves. “We thought we were dealing with [people with] a few pup tents, with sleeping bags and cans of food,” he explained. After a few encounters at similar sites resulted in casualties, the IDF decided to stop launching raids in the nature reserves.
The Elyakim training site is saturated with false explosive devices and camouflaged emplacements, in which the Golani reconnaissance troops are expected to uncover simulated rocket-launching sites. Observing the thick forest below, battalion commander Lt. Col. Oren Cohen says: “We know a lot more about nature reserves today than we did five years ago. If the battalion had been sent into sites like this in 2006, we would have paid a high price.”
Success in the next round will require both combing through and taking control of the terrain – to whatever extent that time allows – and striking at essential targets of Hezbollah and the Lebanon government.
As part of the lessons of 2006, Hezbollah moved its “center of gravity” from nature reserves in open areas to compounds in the heart of villages and forests. The organization’s assumption is that by fighting from within populated areas, they will wear down Israel, which will be apprehensive about a mass killing of civilians.
Israel, which appears to enjoy high-quality intelligence on events in Lebanon, is collecting information about these “urban reserves” as well. At the same time, the Dahiya doctrine has also been developed, by which the IDF has threatened to respond to rocket fire originating from Shi’ite villages by unleashing a vast destructive operation – as it did against the Shi’ite quarter (the Dahiya ) in Beirut in 2006.
The Israeli threats and the scars of the war, which Hezbollah feels far more acutely than it would ever publicly admit, are apparently still able to preserve the status quo in the north and thereby avert another war. The IDF assessment is that neither Hezbollah nor Syria wants to engage in armed conflict this summer. Nonetheless, the fear of escalation remains – particularly if Hezbollah makes good on its plan to perpetrate a showcase terrorist attack abroad, as revenge for the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh two and a half years ago.
No one in their right mind wants war. However, when the enemy is shoving their guns down your throat you had better be prepared.
Israel only gets one chance or it’s dead meat.