Israel Prepares for Another War With Hezbollah as IDF Practices Lebanon Invasion

Israel is carrying out its largest military drills in 20 years along its northern border, including practicing an attack on Hezbollah inside Lebanon.

Over 10 days, Israel’s land, air, sea and intelligence forces will prepare to invade Lebanon in the event of a another war with the Shiite paramilitary organization, with which it fought a bloody conflict in 2006.

Related: What does Israel want from the Civil War in Syria?

“The purpose of the drill is to test the fitness of the Northern Command and the relevant battalions during an emergency,” one IDF officer told Haaretz. In the exercise, the cabinet will give the armed forces an order to “vanquish” Hezbollah. This is described as “the state in which Hezbollah either has no ability or desire to attack anymore,” the IDF officer explained.

The IDF has said in a statement that the exercise is the most important performed by the Israeli military in 19 years. The drill is described as a response to a “significant threat to the IDF and especially the home front” from an enemy that is “developing greatly in warfare, learning and understanding combat.” The size of the military exercise has prompted Hezbollah to put its forces on high alert.

Israel went to war in Lebanon in 2006 in a conflict that lasted 33 days and killed over 1,000 Lebanese, the majority of them civilians. A total of 165 Israelis were killed in the conflict, 44 of them civilians.

A million Lebanese were displaced inside the country and its infrastructure devastated, but Hezbollah successfully used guerilla tactics to overwhelm Israel’s ground invasion of southern Lebanon. The paramilitary group’s rocket attacks also successfully hit Israeli military and civilian targets, undermining support for the war in Israel.

Since 2006, the threat posed by Hezbollah to Israel over the northern border has changed significantly, principally because of the Islamist group’s involvement in the Syrian civil war. Since Hezbollah intervened in the conflict on the side of Bashar al-Assad, Tehran, Israel’s principal regional rival, has been able to funnel weapons and other support to its Lebanese proxy. At the same time Hezbollah has built its conventional fighting capability, gaining expertize and tactical experience in Syria.

Israel’s principal aim is to prevent Iran from building its power base in Syria. The Israeli military has regularly intervened in the conflict to stop Hezbollah from building its capability.  On April 24, the Israeli military struck a Hezbollah weapons cache in Damascus.  One month earlier, Israeli jets carried out airstrikes deep in Syrian airspace in Palmyra, targeting advanced weapons systems bound for Hezbollah.

The last time the IDF held a drill this large was in 1998, in preparation for an attack from Syria. The 2017 drills will also involve one scenario in which the Israeli military has to deal with multiple terror attacks while at the same time Hezbollah stages an attack in the Golan Heights. The Israeli army will also be practicing for the evacuation of Israeli towns along the border in preparation for heavy missile attacks.

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