A lesson from Idlib for Hezbollah: is Israel preparing an attack?

By Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai

For the first time in its official existence in 1985, Lebanon’s Hezbollah has now clashed on the battlefield with the Turkish army, one of NATO’s strongest. The face-to-face clash between Hezbollah and the Turkish military took place in the rural area of Idlib where dozens of Turkish service members lost their lives while fighting side-by-side with jihadists and foreign fighters of different nationalities, including al-Qaeda members. The Turkish-NATO army used similar weapons and tactics to Israel. They surprised Hezbollah by using armed drones and precision bombing behind the frontline, killing nine militants and wounding 65 in one single attack. So many Hezbollah militants were killed in one place due to the collapse of the entire building they gathered under, located behind the main battlefield line.  

 Another factor was the unexpected withdrawal of Russian air coverage at the moment Turkey was sending its Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs) (or Unmanned Aerial System (UAV) better known as armed drones) deep inland, bombing Iran and its allies for the first time. This confrontation has introduced a new military doctrine to Hezbollah militants and has taught them new lessons based on experiences Hezbollah has never been confronted with in the past. Turkey used its UCAVs, TRG-122 satellite-guided rockets, High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and ground attacks by the Turkish army fighting alongside jihadists. It is most likely what Israel has been threatening Hezbollah with, in the event of war.  

 Moreover, Israel’s concern about the outstanding Hezbollah night assault capability on Saraqed has a double edge, pinpointing ability and a procedure Hezbollah can successfully carry out against Israel in case of war- thus triggering concern in Israel. Indeed, Israel is increasingly voicing concern about the level of threat posed by Hezbollah’s ‘al-Radwan’ Elite force spread along the borders of Lebanon. Could Israel be planning a similar quick attack against Hezbollah’s forces? 

 A source within the “Axis of the Resistance” said “during the last war in 2006, Israeli drones covered the sky of Lebanon, providing intelligence information to the Israeli base controller who forwarded the instructions to the F-16s to bomb selective targets. Today we are facing armed drones which can instantly bomb any target considered hostile, without losing precious time or jeopardising the life of the pilot on board of an F-16 when within range of any anti-air missile system Hezbollah could have acquired.” 

 According to sources within the “Axis of the Resistance”, Israel could “attack Hezbollah’s special forces to destroy this capability deployed along the borders. Israel is aware of the presence of a reserve force of several thousands of Hezbollah Special Forces who regularly rotate after serving in Syria- where they have survived one of the fiercest wars any army could face. Israel would also like to destroy all fortifications and tunnels spread along the borders without necessarily destroying the Lebanese infrastructure to avoid triggering an all-out-war. Therefore, in Israel’s mind, it may be amplifying Hezbollah’s threat to hit it and probably not to praise its performance! Israel is used to campaigning against a specific target or threat long before any attack, to justify its action, notwithstanding the irrelevance of international law in the eyes of Israel and its US ally.” 

 When the US wanted to invade Iraq, Saddam Hussein was suddenly manufacturing Weapons of Mass Destruction and leading the fifth strongest army in the world. The US destroyed the Iraqi army in days, but US media amplified Saddam’s threat to justify the invasion.  

In Syria, Israel is portraying Hezbollah as fighting day and night and having equipped every single one of its militants with the most sophisticated weapons and night vision equipment. Israel is talking about Hezbollah’s increasing missile capability and the danger its Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah represents. This is similar to the campaign carried out for several months against Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani prior to his assassination. 

That doesn’t mean Hezbollah is not equipped with tens of thousands of rockets and missiles, and that its Special Forces are not very well trained. It is true that this elite force has gathered a unique experience in the nine years of war in Syria. However, Hezbollah has never initiated a war and will not look to trigger it, though it will not shirk if war is imposed. Hezbollah does not represent a danger to Israel unless it is attacked.  

 Israel has been threatening Hezbollah with an unprecedented kind of war; the kind of war Hezbollah has been recently exposed to in Idlib. Confronting a NATO army was an unprecedented experience which has taught Hezbollah a lot. 

The first lesson learned was the use of mobile phones and the race to post on social media. Hezbollah has a directive similar to that of Israel and most armies around the world to avoid taking mobile phones on the front line. In the last years, Hezbollah leadership failed to impose on all its members the prohibition on mobile phones in Syria, notwithstanding many directives. Sending photos from the frontline is tempting for young Special Forces Hezbollah members to counter misinformation campaigns that the jihadists and rebels perfected.

During the recent battle of Idlib, Hezbollah held its ground and kept control of the eastern part of Saraqeb when the Syrian army pulled back behind its lines following the attack of thousands of jihadists. The Turkish army planned a push towards Talhiya to create a hole in the front and reach al-Hader via Tel el-Eiss. Hezbollah’s mobile phone usage helped Turkey identify the location of Hezbollah’s gathering forces and bomb the Radwan Special Force, killing nine and wounding 66 out of a total of 120, using Turkish drones. The remaining force was able to stop the advance when Fatimiyoun and Zeinabiyoun allies (who also suffered 21 killed) joined them in repelling the attack. 

The counter-attack to recover Saraqeb was the most spectacular attack Hezbollah has carried out in 9 years of war. The attack took place at night when more time is needed to perform tasks and yet, in a few hours, the entire city of Saraqeb was liberated. 

Israel was surprised how Hezbollah Special Forces attacked at night an entrenched enemy taking their positions in fixed and defendable locations around and within the city. Night fighting without previous reconnaissance and rehearsals is not within the capability of many armies. The dissemination of orders at night, avoiding killing their own men with “friendly fire” when attacking jihadists from different sides of the city, was not an easy task. 

 Attacking at night reduced the odds of hitting civilians in urban fighting in a city that has become a frontline. Hezbollah Special Forces relied on their navigational skill to find their way within jihadist positions and to clear the path without there being much night vision equipment around. When fighting at night, the jihadists were shooting in all directions and was not until the first morning hours that the jihadists realised the difficult situation they were in and started to pull out.

Hezbollah showed concern for every member of the Special Forces and yet carried out the night attack with new reinforcements arriving the night of the attack with little time available for briefing and familiarisation with the city. Russia was watching the advance of Hezbollah forces and supported it with 27 air attacks to help clear the way.

Fighting jihadists led and instructed by an intelligent NATO army, Turkey offered the opportunity for Hezbollah to learn and acquire new experiences on the Syrian battlefront. It was a live training exercise, simulating the new capabilities of the Israeli army and exploring the best way to hunt down armed drones and find adequate measures to avoid these deadly machines. 

The recovery of Saraqeb was a unique school for Hezbollah: Israel cannot ignore the high performance of this quasi-state actor with an irregular but organised and a well-trained army. Tel Aviv can no longer surprise Hezbollah in the next war because it has failed to limit its military knowledge and its warfare capabilities. Hezbollah has many armed drones, tens of thousands of missiles and rockets and is capable of fighting in all weather and day-night conditions. It can take the initiative and counter-attack rather than limit itself to defence as it has done in all Israeli wars on Lebanon.  

Hezbollah Special Forces showed on video how, from the battlefield, they film themselves laughing just before their death. Not because they look for a reason to die. On the contrary, extra precautions are taken to limit casualties. But if confronted with death, they leave a video trace of their spirit during the last seconds. Israeli threats against Hezbollah would certainly not shake their morale. The solution is straightforward for the Israeli officials: don’t try a war, even if the objectives are limited.

Proofread by:  C.G.B and Maurice Brasher

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Copyright © https://ejmagnier.com  2020 

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13 thoughts on “A lesson from Idlib for Hezbollah: is Israel preparing an attack?

  1. https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/erdogan-wants-to-jointly-manage-syrias-oil-fields/

    “Erdogan wants to jointly manage Syria’s oil fields“

    “Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he has proposed the joint management of oil fields in eastern Syria to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and has suggested that Russia and Turkey can manage the oil fields in place of the “terrorists” who control them at present.

    Speaking to reporters during his flight back from Brussels on Tuesday, Erdogan said that Putin was evaluating the offer, which the Turkish president said he made during talks in Moscow last week. Erdogan added that he may make a similar proposal to US President Donald Trump.

    “Deir ez-Zor is another territory with oil reserves. In that province, terrorists exploit the oil resources. America has its own plans here,” Erdogan said, recalling the conversation.

    “I made the offer to Mr. Putin that if he gives financial support, we can do the construction and through the oil obtained there, we can help destroyed Syria get on its feet,” he added.
    “If such a step can be taken here, I can even make the same offer to Trump,” Erdogan said.

    Moscow has not yet commented on the veracity of the Turkish president’s recollection of his talks with Putin…”

    ———————————————————————————

    Cat is out of the bag. Erdogan has exposed his real intentions in Syria,

    Turkey is desperate for direct access and control to oil resources, reason they won’t let go of their foothold in Idlib, Erdogan already using it as a leverage against Syria and in negotiations with the Russians. Showing off his best “qualities” as a debased political whore, he promises to “make the same offer to Trump…”

    We had pointed out Erdogan’s intentions on another comment back in Mr. Magnier’s post,

    “SYRIA IMPOSES THE ASTANA DEAL BY FORCE, AS TURKISH-RUSSIAN TENSIONS RISE”

    https://ejmagnier.com/2020/02/11/syria-imposes-the-astana-deal-by-force-as-turkish-russian-tensions-rise/

    where we said,

    “…The role of Erdogan in Syria, though justified through the Kurds and Turkey “national security,” it is more that of a petty thief, a war profiteer. Erdogan is desperate for Turkey to have its own oil and gas sources, was comfortable stealing oil from Syria for years, his own son Bilal controlled the entire operation worth billions. He’s risking a war with Greece for gas resources, and a conflict with Egypt for his support of the UN-recognized Libyan “government” in search of delimiting maritime boundaries that will help Turkey out of the stranglehold is facing in the Mediterranean….”

    ———————————————————————————

    On another note, Al Masdar News reproduced an article from Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Independent Newspaper), denouncing Turkey for using the latest ceasefire to regroup their taqfiri scum in Idlib.

    What’s new?

    https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/turkey-is-using-idlib-ceasefire-to-regroup-militants-media/

    “Turkey is using Idlib ceasefire to regroup militants: media“

    Here, the original article in Russian.

    http://www.ng.ru/armies/2020-03-09/2_7812_syria.html

    “Turkey used ceasefire to regroup”

    “None of the parties to the armed conflict in Syria believes in a peaceful resolution to the Idlib problem”

    Same old, same old…

    Lone Wolf

  2. CLIMBING DOWN OR BLUFFING? ERDOGAN IN IDLIB

    Grateful for an insightful piece on the most recent developments in Idlib.

    Several so-called analysts have been wrongly using the term “bluffing” to define Turkey’s predicament in Idlib. “Bluffing” has several connotations, among them “To start but not carry out (an action) as a means of deceiving or intimidating another.” In general, “bluffing” is a false display of aggression or intimidation, misleading opponents with a “make-believe” attitude and empty threats.

    Turkey’s attack on Saraqib and Nayrab only, were enough examples to debunk the notion that Erdogan was bluffing. Nayrab could not be recovered before Erdogan’s March 5th visit to Moscow, and it remains under control of the taqfiri scum, blocking the way southwest to the M4 highway. Saraqib was held by a thread, thanks to Hezbollah’s heroism, which together with elements of the SAA 5th Army, the Fatimiyoun and Zeynabiyoun, held their ground on Saraqib’s eastern sector stopping Turkey’s onslaught.

    The ferocity of Turkey’s attack, indiscriminately targeting Hezbollah and IRGC forces, prompted Iranian officials to send mediators to notify Turkey their taqfiri scum were attacking Hezbollah/IRGC troops with their support, stating they had no intention to attack Turkey’s troops, theirs was a defensive role in support of the Syrian army. Regardless, Turkey continued their attack, killing dozens of Hezbollah/IRGC soldiers, with more than a hundred wounded.

    Mr. Magnier gifted us with a superb description of the defense of Saraqib by Hezbollah, all he left for us was to highlight the heroics of Hezbollah fighters before such a display of force launched by Turkey. Frontline accounts of the battle to recover Saraqib let us know the Turks lack of guided missiles in their drones forced them to target SAA support weapons, howitzers, tanks, and rocket launchers, leaving the field open for support troops from the 25th Special Forces to enter Saraqib in support of Hezbollah & Co. Notwithstanding the fierce counterattack by the Syrian Army, the SAA was left with a thin line of defense along M5, substantially short in comparison to the frontlines before Turkey’s military operation. The taqfiri scum with Turkey support, held their ground before the Moscow negotiations.

    War is politics by other means, goes the Clausewitzian dictum.

    Events in the last 4-5 days after the Moscow “Memorandum” provide ample evidence Turkey is not bluffing, they continue to move heavy weaponry across the border, making mockery of their pledge to respect Syria’s “territorial integrity and sovereignty.” It is now very clear Erdogan’s Syrian policy is not transitory or for short gains only, it is a policy of Turkey’s “Deep State,” they are getting ready to carve a piece of Syria. Erdogan’s visit to Moscow, widely regarded by many as a “victory” for Syria given the recently conquered territories remain under Syrian control, has a different optics.

    Erdogan knew Syria/Russia/Iran will not retreat to the 2018 Sochi Agreement frontlines, but it didn’t hurt to request them to set a tough tone to the negotiations. He was forced to “climb down” his greedy tree by the Russian Air Force, and by the determination of the Stavka, which are by now calculating a confrontation with Turkey in Syria might come sooner rather than later. What he got is enough real estate to continue his greedy drive in Syria, in preparation for the expiry in 2023 of the 1923 Lausanne Treaty. Or so he thinks.

    Hezbollah has grown exponentially from, let’s say the 2006 Divine Victory to now. Shaykh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah strategic decision to enter the Syrian war provided Hezbollah with a high-speed learning curve, one they have exploited to the max. The “irregular” group that faced Israel during the 2006 Summer War was by then no more a guerrilla, let alone a rag-tag army. Bastard child Israel was in shock & awe at the proficiency and skills of an “irregular” group that destroyed so many of their tanks, shot one their best ships, while their infantry was fighting “ghosts,” as they called Hezbollah fighters moving undetected in the battlefield. The Turks and their taqfiri scum just got a taste of Hezbollah fighters “invisible” abilities, and more.

    As for bastard child Israel, an attack against Hezbollah will be on hold until after the circus, ahem, the US elections, are done with and a new puppet has been chosen. I have no doubt Israel is itching to attack not only Hezbollah, if Trump wins, it will also create the conditions for an attack on Iran. The Russians know they only have until October to increase their foothold in Syria, reason their patience with Erdogan is rapidly coming to an end.

    Lone Wolf

  3. As much as I would love for Hezbollah and its allies to be a formidable defensive force, and as much as I hate to see the neo-ottomans becoming a regional threat (or even worse a hegemon), I must admit that Iran and its allies performance recently have been a bit disappointing. From using exceptionally precise missiles to ONLY hit a few tented structure and doing their best to keep the US casualty to an absolute minimum, to the recent performance they exhibited against the neo-ottoman army (loosing 10s of officers and doing NOTHING to the Turks in return), they are giving the impression of a military force which shies away from retaliation of even the most brazen and arrogant crimes, if the appropriate retaliation would trigger a bigger war.
    The enemy will arrive at the conclusion that no matter how brazenly they commit an act aggression the so called “axis of resistance” will refrain from any real act of retaliation and instead it will limit its reaction to a symbolic retaliatory act at best (eg. Ain Al Asad, Hezbollah’s guided rocket attack against Israeli vehicle, and refraining from even pretending to retaliate against the neo-Ottaman army).
    I am afraid after the Idlib events, Turks will become far more brazen and self-confident against Iranians and their allies.

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