Israel’s “Lethal Arrow” military exercise anticipates Hezbollah will cross its borders

By Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai

After a week of military manoeuvres, Israel revealed that its main military objective was focused on the northern front to confront the possibility of Hezbollah “Radwan” special forces advancing into Israeli settlements adjacent to the border. During these manoeuvres, messages were exchanged between Israel and Hezbollah that only the two sides understand. What were these indirect “messages” between the two sworn foes?

In these large-scale exercises, Israel has acknowledged, for the first time, a new reality which is a source of real concern. A “Radwan” Special Forces attack taking control of Israeli border settlements is indeed a high probability. This shows that Israel has been closely tracking Hezbollah’s capabilities and the performance and organisation of its special forces during the nine years of the Syrian war.

It is not a coincidence that the Secretary-General of Hezbollah Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah agreed to broadcast episodes on local TV showing how his men fought in the rugged mountains bordering Lebanon and Syria, and the recapture of the city of Qusayr and the region of Qalamoun between 2013 and 2017. In Syria, Hezbollah revealed its use of armed drones, its experience in urban and highland warfare, its capability to reconnoitre inside enemy territory, the military academic study of military operations (strategy and tactics), the live follow-up of the forces’ progress through giant screens inside Hezbollah’s operations rooms, and its capability to liberate territories over ten times bigger than the entire Lebanese territory.

Sayyed Nasrallah wanted to limit the sharing of warfare experience accumulated by his group and deliberately did not reveal the numerous night attacks and the great night ambushes Hezbollah carried out during the war in Syria. Hezbollah did not, therefore, share all the capabilities it possesses, information to be revealed only in the event of a future war with Israel. Sayyed Nasrallah’s message was also directed at those Lebanese groups, if any, contemplating the possibility of an internal civil war. Sufficient information was conveyed so that Tel Aviv could understand that future action will not be a picnic for the Israeli army.

Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi spoke about other objectives in the military manoeuvres. The Israeli media revealed the creation of a new Israeli Division 99 and the multi-dimensional “Ghost Unit” to counter Hezbollah. In reality, these units have been formed only to face a new force Hezbollah deployed along its borders, a mixed force of “Radwan” and other specialised (attacking rather than defensive) forces that were deployed during

this current year along the Lebanese borders following a 16-month training on “Israeli settlement attacks” and the coordination of several different forces. Hezbollah has deliberately shown this new deployment, which is its way of reducing the spectre of war with an indirect message, as if to say to its opponent: “See what we have in terms of forces and capabilities, you should think carefully before embarking on a new adventure against Lebanon.”

The Israeli army said that its ground forces will not be effectively ready to defend the settlements- and thus be able to face Hezbollah’s new force and be in position- before 2022. This Israeli readiness needs to include the ability to circumvent, isolate, prevent expansion, purify, besiege and eliminate the attacking troops in places where breaking through the borders and controlling a village or more villages nearby is likely.

Consequently, from the type of Israeli military exercises it is engaged in, there is little doubt Israel is convinced for the first time that the next war will not be limited to Lebanese territory; that its own borders will be violated; and that offensive combat forces will enter settlements and homes and clash with Israeli troops.

This is a chess game in which Israel relies primarily on the air force to pave the way for the ground forces and eliminate enemy targets, to paralyse their capabilities and send drones (that will represent the backbone of the next war) carrying multi-functional missiles targeted against armoured vehicles and personnel. On the other side, Hezbollah has prepared measures to protect supply routes, search for gaps, and present alternative plans during the separation process and to secure withdrawal when crossing the borders and controlling settlements.

Moreover, in its developing hypothesis of a new war with Hezbollah, Israel believes that all its airfields will be bombed with precision missiles. Therefore, it is trying to get from the US a few squadrons of the new generation F-35B jets that do not need long runways, so as to maintain military superiority in the Middle East.

Hezbollah is also trying to find a new equation to confront Israel in the next war – which no one wants to take place, but both are preparing for as if it could take place tomorrow – by creating underground shelters and new warfare technology to compensate for the enemy’s air superiority. The surprises of the 2006 war were essential in neutralising the Israeli navy (the bombing of the Israeli battleship Sa’ar-5 off the coast of Beirut by a C-802 missile), and the armoured corps (the Kornet laser missiles in Wadi al-Hajeer). Consequently, it cannot be known what surprises those trained during the  “Lethal Arrow” exercise are “expected” to encounter.

Proofread by: Maurice Brasher and C.G.B

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