By Lilach Shoval, Israel Hayom—
In the event of another war with Hezbollah, Israel’s achievement will be measured according to how massive a blow it would deal the Shiite terrorist group’s leadership and infrastructure, a senior officer involved in the wide-scale military exercise taking place near the northern border said Monday.
“In any case, there is no way Hezbollah would be able to seize territory inside Israel, even though we don’t doubt they would claim they did,” he said.
The 11-day drill, launched on Sept. 5, is the first military exercise in 19 years to involve the entire Northern Corps. Military officials stressed the drill was planned months in advance, saying it has nothing to do with recent developments in Syria and Lebanon, Israel’s neighbors to the north.
The drill follows a scenario by which the cabinet orders the IDF to decisively defeat Hezbollah. Tens of thousands of military personnel, including thousands of reservists, are participating in the drill, which includes extensive ground, logistics, engineering and homefront forces and drone units, as well as the Israeli Air Force, Israeli Navy, Military Intelligence and the General Staff.
Speaking with reporters on Monday, the officer said that while the next war will see the IDF neutralize the rocket launching areas that have the greatest operational value for Hezbollah, the IDF knows that the communities in northern Israel will likely sustain rocket fire up until the last day of fighting.
“But that’s not how the IDF’s achievements will be measured. They will be measured by how we hit Hezbollah commanders and destroy its infrastructure,” he said.
He stressed that there was no way for the Shiite terrorist group to overrun territories inside Israel, saying that “faced with our order of battle, Hezbollah simply doesn’t have that ability. With all due respect to Hezbollah’s capabilities, and we have a healthy respect for them, it won’t be able to seize [Israeli] territory for long.”
The officer further said that “it’s reasonable to assume that under certain circumstances, given a certain concentration of effort [by Hezbollah], our line of contact will be breached. The question is what will happen when it’s breached and what happens to those who breach it. We’re aware of the growing skill set Hezbollah has acquired in Syria, and we’re designing our offensive and defensive campaigns accordingly.”
One of the scenarios drilled during the current exercise simulates an infiltration by Hezbollah terrorists to a border-adjacent community. Commenting on that possibility the officer said, “We don’t like to sweep violations of sovereignty under the rug and we make them [Hezbollah] pay dearly using firepower and maneuvers.
“We’re aiming for where we believe achievements can be marked on the ground in a way that would allow the political echelon to pursue various moves in the future,” he said.
The military believes that Hezbollah’s massive rocket fire on Israel in the future, also simulated during the exercise, is likely to be short-ranged, targeting the northern sector rather than aiming deeper into Israel, and as such Hezbollah is likely to use heavier warheads, the officer said, noting that long-range rocket fire was “surprisingly scarce during the drill.”
The officer stressed that “we’re not playing with them [Hezbollah]. One breach of Israeli sovereignty, one time with [civilian] casualties and the reaction will be decisive, significant and sophisticated. The trick is to understand the offensive and defensive campaigns you’re up against, identify their weaknesses and target those weaknesses in a surprising way.”
He noted that Hezbollah was becoming a more militarized organization, saying, “The clearer Hezbollah’s form becomes, the clearer its weaknesses and where we can manipulate it becomes.”
Unlike previous drills, the current exercise focuses on defeating the Shiite terrorist group decisively rather than on generating deterrence.
The officer said that while “defeat” and “decisive victory” remain elusive military concepts, they focus on Israel’s achievements and entail meeting the operational objectives set by the political echelon, as well as improving Israel’s strategic position.