By Israel Hayom

The recent security escalation on the northern borders has made another war with Hezbollah in the foreseeable future more likely, a senior defense official said Wednesday.

The Lebanon-based terrorist group, which serves as Iran’s proxy in the Middle East, has gained valuable fighting experience from its involvement in the Syrian civil war, he said.

Hezbollah stepped into the Syrian conflict in 2012, about a year after the civil war erupted, over Iran’s desire to prop up Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. Between 1,300 and 1,500 Hezbollah operatives are believed to have been killed in battles in Syria and some 5,000 fighters have been wounded.

According to Israeli assessments, this means the terrorist group has lost about a third of its fighting force.

“The chances of war in 2018 have grown but that doesn’t mean we, or the other players in the region, have an interest in going to war,” GOC Army Headquarters Maj. Gen. Yaakov Barak said Wednesday.

He noted that the next military campaign in the northern sector, which the IDF believes may comprise fighting on both the Syrian and the Lebanese front, “will be wider and faster and it will run deeper” into enemy territory.

“We are well-trained and ready for battle and the coming supper will see us implement a new operative perception versus existing and emerging enemies,” he said.

Briefing reporters Wednesday, a high-ranking military official said that while the military “doesn’t have the answer” to the question of what will be the deciding factor against Hezbollah in a future war, “It will most likely be the combination of tactical and operational achievements. If, for example, we’re able to eliminate [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah, that would be a decisive victory.”

Commenting on the nature of a future conflict with the Shiite terrorist group, he said, “I have no doubt that in the next war ground maneuvers will be launched during the first days of fighting and they will be far more lethal and deep. Given the predicted attacks on the homefront, I don’t see a situation where the political echelon hesitates to order [ground maneuvers]. The first phase [of fighting] will demand the ground forces seize territories and destroy the enemy.”

The IDF believes that the next northern war will see massive rocket and missile fire on the Israeli homefront, alongside incursions into border-adjacent communities. Other wartime scenarios include enemy use of suicide drones and multicopters, as well as heavy short-range rockets that can carry half a ton of explosives.

The official said that “the war could take weeks, not days, until we mark the necessary achievement, but it won’t take months.”

He said one of the military’s primary objectives will be destroying the enemies’ rocket and missile launchers and arsenal, to minimize the threat to the homefront.