The war scenario between Israel and Hezbollah

By Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai

Notwithstanding the increase in power of the “Axis of the Resistance”, with its precision missiles and unrivalled accumulated warfare experience, the possibility of war is still on the table. The “Axis of the Resistance” is increasing its readiness based on the possibility that Israel may not tolerate the presence of such a serious threat on its northern borders and therefore act to remove it. However, in any future war, the “Axis of the Resistance” considers the consequences would be overwhelmingly devastating for both sides and on all levels if the rules of engagement are not respected. Notwithstanding Israel’s superior air firepower, its enemy Hezbollah has established its own tremendous firepower, and its experience in recent wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen is an important asset.

Sources within the “Axis of the Resistance” believe the next battle between Hezbollah and Israel, if ever it takes place, would be “controlled and not sporadic, with a focus on specific military objectives without damaging the infrastructure, on both sides”.

The sources consider Gaza as a precedent. In Gaza Palestinians and Israelis have fought many recent battles that lasted only a few days in which the objectives bombed were purely military. This is a new rule of engagement (ROE) regulating conflict between the belligerents. When Israel hits a non-military target, the Palestinian resistance responds by hitting a similar non-military target in Israel. The lesson extracted from the new ROE between Israel and the Palestinians is that every time exchanges of bombing go out of control, both sides understand they have to bring it back to an acceptable and equitable level, to limit damage and keep such mutual attacks from targeting civilians.

The “Axis of the Resistance” therefore considers that the probability is high that the next battle would be limited to military objectives and kept under control. If one side increases the bombing, the other will follow. Otherwise, both sides have the capability to cause total destruction and go on to uncontrolled bombing. In the case of an out-of-control war, allies on both sides would become involved, which renders this scenario less likely.

Hezbollah in Lebanon is said to have over 150,000 missiles and rockets. Israel might suppose that a limited attack could destroy tens of thousands of Hezbollah’s missiles. Is it worth it? “From Israel’s view, Israel may think it is worth triggering a battle and destroying thousands of missiles, thinking that Israel has the possibility to prevent Hezbollah from re-arming itself. But even in this case, Israel doesn’t need to destroy villages or cities or the Lebanese infrastructure, instead, it will limit itself to selective targets within its bank of objectives. However, we strongly doubt Israel could succeed in limiting Hezbollah’s supply of missiles and advanced weapons. Many of these missiles no longer need to be close to the borders with Israel, but can be deployed on the Lebanese-Syrian borders in safe silos”, said the sources.

However, Israel should also expect, according to the same sources, that Hezbollah will respond by bombing significant Israeli military targets within its bank of objectives. “There is no need to bomb airports, power stations, chemical industries, harbours or any highly significant target if Israel doesn’t bomb any of these in Lebanon. But if necessary Hezbollah is prepared to imitate Israel by hitting back without hesitation indiscriminately and against high-value targets, at the cost of raising the level of confrontation to its maximum level. Hezbollah and Israel have a common language in warfare. If the bombing is limited, no side interprets the others’ actions as a sign of weakness”, said the sources.

“Hezbollah doesn’t want war and is doing everything to avoid it. This is why it responded in Moawad, in the suburb of Beirut, when Israeli armed drones failed to reach their objectives. By responding, Hezbollah actually prevented a war on a large scale because it is not possible to allow Israel to get away with any act of war in Lebanon, violating the ROE” said the sources.

Last September, Hezbollah targeted an Israeli vehicle in Avivim with a laser-guided missile in daylight after forcing the Israeli Army to hide for a week and retreat all forces behind civilians lines, imposing a new ROE. The Israeli army cleared the 120 km borders with Lebanon (5 km deep) to avoid Hezbollah’s revenge retaliation for violating the 2006 cessation of hostility’s agreement. Israel refrained from responding and swallowed the humiliation due to its awareness of Hezbollah’s readiness to start a devastating war if necessary.

Israeli officials used to threaten Hezbollah and Lebanon to take the country “back to the stone age”. This is indeed within the reach of Israel’s military capability. However, it is also within Hezbollah’s reach to bring Israel back to the stone age, if required. Hezbollah’s precision missiles can hit any bridge, airport, gasoline deposit containers, power stations, Haifa harbour, oil and gas rig platforms, any infrastructure and military and non-military objectives if Israel attempts to target similar objectives in Lebanon first. Hezbollah’s new missile capability is not new to Israel, who is observing the latest technology Iran’s allies are enjoying and “testing,” mainly in Yemen. The recent bombing of Saudi Arabia oil facilities and the downing of a Saudi Tornado in Yemen revealed that Iran’s HOT missiles are capable of downing jets at medium height and any helicopter violating Lebanese airspace.

Hezbollah’s latest version of the Fateh precision missile, the supersonic anti-ship missiles and the anti-air missiles can prevent Israel from using its navy, stopping any civilian ship from docking in Haifa, thwarting the use of Israeli Helicopters and precision bombing attacks- as in Iran’s latest confrontation with the US at Ayn al-Assad base in Iraq.

Hezbollah’s missiles are unlikely to cause simple traumatic brain injuries – as per the Iranian missile at Ayn al Assad – when hitting targets in Israel in case of war. They can avoid missile interception systems. This increase of capability is a game-changer, and Hezbollah believes it is already decreasing the chances of war. Arming itself with precision missiles and armed drones and showing these capabilities to Israel is Hezbollah’s way to avert a war and protect the equation of deterrence.

In its 2020 security assessment, the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate (Aman) unwisely evaluated the assassination of the Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani as a “restraining factor”. Aman’s report, showing astonishing ignorance, stated that Soleimani was responsible for Hezbollah’s missile projects. This lack of understanding of the Hezbollah-Iran relationship and dynamic is quite surprising. Sayyed Ali Khamenei told Hezbollah’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah decades ago that he knows what he needs and what to do and doesn’t need to fall back on Iran. The IRGC and Hezbollah have set up a collaboration engine that won’t stop even if half of the IRGC leadership is killed. The possession of the feared Iranian precision missiles is no longer a secret: all Iran’s allies have these deployed, in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Yesterday is unlike today: the power of destruction now belongs to all parties, no longer to Israel alone. War is no longer an option. US/Israeli aggression will be limited to an economic war, so long as the “Axis of the Resistance” continues updating its warfare capability to maintain deterrence parity. 

Proofread by: Maurice Brasher and C.G.B.

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