'Lebanon will face greater destruction in next round,' IDF commander says
On eve of sixth anniversary of Second Lebanon War, Galilee Division commander Brig. Gen. Herzi Halevi says Israel is prepared for war with Hezbollah, and with the Lebanese army if necessary • Border clash narrowly avoided after Lebanese soldiers mark IDF soldiers as targets.
Lilach Shoval, Yori Yalon and Israel Hayom Staff
In video released by the IDF, a group of men is seen collecting intelligence along the Israel-Lebanon border.
Photo credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit
With Israel about to mark six years since the Second Lebanon War next week, senior military officials have warned that if Israel is provoked, the next round of fighting with Lebanon will more destructive than the last.
Brig. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the commander of the Israel Defense Forces’ Galilee Division, declared that if Israel felt that Hezbollah's presence in the southern Lebanese villages warranted an attack, "the response would be very harsh, and very violent in some respects."
"The IDF's action would entail great destruction of Lebanese villages," he said. "The IDF needs to strike where the enemy is situated, and [Hezbollah] chose to hide in the heart of the [civilian] population, so that this would not be punitive destruction. But it will cause enormous damage to Lebanon; far more than the Second Lebanon War."
"The Goldstone report [which criticized Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli offensive in Gaza in 2008-9] made us second-guess ourselves and confused us into thinking that we could make the [fighting] prettier," Halevi said. "It's important to say: This cannot be a pretty situation. [Another] war with Lebanon, without the IDF exercising a great deal of force, would make it much harder for us to achieve our goals."
“The challenges before us are many. We’ll need to see how to deal with the complex challenge of an enemy with many capabilities,” Halevi said. “However, if so required, we can operate on Lebanese soil and cause great damage to terrorist centers found there. Great destruction would be caused to Lebanese soil. The destruction would be greater in Lebanon than in Israel. The amount of explosives we would use against Lebanon would be far greater than the number they would use against us."
The commander also said the IDF sees a link between events in Syria and terrorist activities on the northern border, and has been preparing accordingly. “The chances of hostile activities in the border region continue to increase so we must be ready and prepared,” he said. “There are several impetuses that could end the calm on the northern border but the IDF knows how to give a precise and clear response to every possible scenario.”
The commander said the IDF was prepared and ready for any scenario on the northern border, including a war against Hezbollah and, if necessary, the Lebanese army.
Other Israeli military officers have also expressed concern about an increase in tensions between Israel and Lebanon following an incident on the border last week when a full-blown confrontation with the Lebanese army was narrowly avoided.
Last week, Israeli soldiers patrolling the area noticed that Lebanese troops across the border were aiming their weapons at them. One of the soldiers overheard the Lebanese commander describing the Israelis as targets. The Israeli soldiers quickly summoned a backup force, and, with the arrival of tanks at the scene, the Lebanese forces withdrew.
Halevi also revealed that the IDF was aware of Hezbollah's reconnaissance activities on the border. Hezbollah continues to collect information on Israel through observation stations located in residential buildings, patrol vehicles, and dozens of operatives on the field.
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit released a video documenting Hezbollah's intelligence collection vehicles on the northern border.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, an official ceremony was held at Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem to commemorate soldiers who lost their lives in the Second Lebanon War. The ceremony was attended by IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, former IDF head Lt. Gen. (res.) Dan Halutz and Minister Without Portfolio Yossi Peled.
"The Second Lebanon War was necessary for Israel to restore its deterrent capability," Peled said at the ceremony.