Wednesday, Jul 24, 2024

Israel Facing a Two-Front War

Eight months after the devastating October 7 attack, the Israeli army is still trying to destroy the remaining Hamas battalions in Rafah, and stop their fighters from regaining control over other areas of Gaza which the IDF had previously conquered and then withdrew. Hamas fighters in Gaza were also able to carry out two devastating attacks over the weekend. One attack against a Namer armored personnel carrier killed eight members of a combat engineering battalion it was transporting in Rafah. In the second attack, in northern Gaza, two out of four members of an Israeli tank crew were killed by an improvised explosive device (IDF), bringing the total number of soldiers killed in Gaza after October 7 to 311.
However, the IDF has also delivered an encouraging progress report on its operations in Rafah. It claimed this week that after more than 40 days of fighting, it has effectively dismantled two of Hamas’ four fighting brigades in the city, killed at least 550 terrorists in the process, and that Israeli troops are now moving forward to attack the remaining Hamas strongholds in the center of Rafah and in the Shaboura refugee camp.
In addition, the IDF is now in control of the entire Philadelphi corridor along the Gaza-Egyptian border which Hamas has been using for years to smuggle large quantities of arms and other contraband through 25 long tunnels running underneath the border, with the cooperation of corrupt Egyptian government officials.
The IDF also said that it had located hundreds of Hamas rockets in the corridor, including dozens of long-range missiles aimed at central Israel, as well as more than 200 tunnel shafts connecting to Hamas’ massive tunnel network throughout Gaza.
The IDF also announced that it was instituting a “tactical pause” for fighting during daylight hours along a main north-south route inside Gaza to facilitate the delivery of a large backlog of humanitarian aid to Gaza’s civilians.
Meanwhile, the level of fighting along the northern border has also escalated, as Hezbollah used Israel’s success in killing one of its senior commanders, Talib Sami Abdulla, as an excuse to fire a total of more than 300 missiles on June 12 and 13. The terrorists also used for the first time an advanced Iranian-supplied missile, the Falaq 2, with a longer range and a heavier warhead than the Falaq 1 rockets Hezbollah used in previous attacks.
On June 5, a Hezbollah drone attack on the Druse village of Hurfeish killed reserve sergeant Refael Kauders, age 39, who served as a Military Rabbinate coordinator for his battalion and injured 9 more soldiers. Kauders was the fifteenth Israeli soldier to be killed by Hezbollah attacks on northern Israel since October 7, in addition to 10 killed Israeli civilians.
In addition to the retaliatory airstrikes and artillery barrages Israel launched against Hezbollah’s rocket launching sites, Israeli soldiers also used the trebuchet, a sling-style artillery weapon that dates back to the 16th century, to launch fireballs into Lebanese territory to burn away shrubbery that Hezbollah fighters were using for cover.
Also, during the first week of June, swarms of Hezbollah drones and rockets ignited huge fires that burnt up 2,500 acres of dried-out grasslands across northern Israel but concentrated mostly in the area of Kiryat Shemona. These fires were finally brought under control with minimal property damage. The fires prompted even more residents in the Israeli north to join an estimated 60,000 other civilians who have abandoned their homes in the area since October 7.
The Israeli retaliatory strikes since October 7 have killed 342 members of Hezbollah, but those manpower losses to date are minuscule compared to its well-trained force estimated to be up to 100,000 fighters and reserves.
Recent Hezbollah rocket attacks were aimed at targets more than 20 miles inside Israeli territory, much deeper than those launched at targets along the border over the past few months, including the major cities of Haifa, Tzfas, Akko, Nahariya, and Teveria.
Israel must change this new status quo by putting a stop to these constant attacks which have made normal life in northern Israel unsafe and untenable for the last eight months.
But Israel also faces a dilemma, according to Jonathan Spar, the director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, writing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. He asks: if the Israeli army were to attack, and push Hezbollah forces back to a position north of the Litani River, what would happen then? Unless Israel is ready to occupy that part of southern Lebanon again, Hezbollah would undoubtedly return to the area again soon after the Israel military withdraws, which is exactly, what happened after the 2006 Second Lebanon War, despite a U.N. Security Council resolution. Once again, as in Gaza, Israel’s main problem is not winning the war with its enemy, but rather maintaining the uneasy peace that would follow.
Meanwhile, the United Nations special coordinator for Lebanon, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, and the head of U.N. peacekeeping forces in Lebanon, Aroldo Lazaro, warned that there was a “very real” risk that a miscalculation along Lebanon’s southern border could trigger a wider conflict. And that they were “deeply concerned” about the escalation along Lebanon’s border.
According to IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari, Hezbollah “has been escalating its attacks against Israel. Since deciding to join the war that Hamas started on October 7, Hezbollah has fired over 5,000 rockets, anti-tank missiles, and explosive UAVs from Lebanon at Israeli families, homes, and communities.” Last week’s salvo of rockets and drones was the largest barrage since the beginning of the war.
“Hezbollah’s increasing aggression is bringing us to the brink of what could be a wider escalation, one that could have devastating consequences for Lebanon and the entire region,” Hagari said, clarifying that, “this is not a threat, but a message to the international community.”
Hagari also said that Hezbollah has refused “to comply with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701,” which required it to withdraw from Israel’s northern border to a position north of the Litani River in southern Lebanon as one of the terms of the ceasefire which ended the Second Lebanon War. “Because of Hezbollah’s military infrastructure, weapons, and fire at Israel from the area south of the Litani River. . . Israel will take the necessary measures to protect its civilians until security along our border with Lebanon is restored.”
“Hezbollah is jeopardizing the future of Lebanon,” the IDF spokesman continued, “so that it can be a shield for the Hamas terrorists who murdered the elderly, abused women, burned children, and kidnapped Jews, Muslims, and Christians during their massacre on October 7.”
Hagari also warned that “one way or another we will ensure the safe and secure return of Israelis to their homes in northern Israel. That is not up for negotiation.
“Iran’s terror proxies continue to drag the region to destruction. Israel will continue fighting against Iran’s axis of evil on all fronts — in Gaza, in Lebanon — as we work towards a more secure future for the Middle East,” the IDF spokesman concluded.
According to Heiko Wimmen, a Middle East specialist for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, the deeper that Israel and Hezbollah strike into each other’s territory and the heavier the weapons they use, the more likely it is that “something goes wrong,” igniting a full-scale conflict that neither side wants at the current time.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyomin Netanyahu is under increasing political pressure from the Knesset Opposition leader, Yair Lapid, as well as extreme right-wing members of his coalition, such as National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, to take stronger military action in the north, to permit the displaced Israelis to return to their homes in the area.
Lapid said, in a tweet on X, “The north goes up in flames and Israeli deterrence burns with it.
“The government has no plan for the day after in Gaza, no plan to return the residents to the north, no management, no strategy. A government of total abandonment.”
Even senior IDF officers have spoken out publicly about the need to make northern Israel safe for displaced Israeli families to return to their homes before September when the next school year starts.
In response to this pressure, Netanyahu said during his visit to Kiryat Shemona near the Lebanese border two weeks ago, that Israel was prepared for “very intense action” in the north.
“Whoever thinks that they can hurt us and that we will sit idly by is making a big mistake,” the prime minister added. “One way or another, we will restore security to the north.”
Meanwhile, according to a CBS News report, some U.S. officials say they believe the recent Israeli retaliatory strikes deeper into Lebanese territory are deliberately setting the stage for a broader military operation in Lebanon, which would spark an all-out war that would be far more destructive than the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006. At that time, using inaccurate Soviet-era Katyusha rockets, Hezbollah was able to bring normal life in northern Israel as far south as Haifa to a complete halt for more than a month, Today, armed with 150,000 more accurate, longer-range missiles supplied by Iran, Hezbollah could launch a devastating barrage at major cities throughout Israel.
Ever since the October 7 attack, U.S. officials have been urging Israel to hold back from using its full force against the Hezbollah missile attacks, while trying to use diplomacy to defuse the growing tensions on Israel’s northern border. The U.S. has also taken at face value Hezbollah claims that its missile attacks on Israel are in support of Hamas in Gaza, and implying that they would stop if there were a cease-fire agreement in place to end the fighting in Gaza.
But despite the intense U.S.-led international pressure for meaningful ceasefire talks and a hostage-for-prisoners deal based upon an Israeli-approved proposal, and backed by the passage of a U.N. Security Council resolution, no such deal is yet in sight. That is because Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar wants the war in Gaza to continue indefinitely until the growing political pressure on Biden prompts him to force Israel to accept Hamas’ terms for ending the war in Gaza.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, Sinwar has sent dozens of messages to the Hamas leaders and ceasefire negotiators outside Gaza urging them to reject all offers that do not call for a permanent ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, demonstrating his cold total disregard for human life, including the lives of Hezbollah fighters, out of the belief Israel has more to lose from continuing the war than Hamas does.
“We have the Israelis right where we want them,” Sinwar said in a recent message to the Hamas officials trying to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Qatari and Egyptian officials.
In an April 11 letter to Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh, after three of Haniyeh’s adult sons were killed by an Israeli airstrike, Sinwar wrote that their deaths and those of thousands of other Hamas terrorists would “infuse life into the veins of this [Palestinian] nation, prompting it to rise to its glory and honor.”
Sinwar, now in his early 60s, grew up in a United Nations-run refugee camp in Gaza. He joined the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Sunni Islamic movement that eventually became Hamas in the 1980s, and became close to its founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Sinwar was nicknamed the “Butcher of Khan Yunis” because he set up an internal Hamas security force that hunted down and killed suspected Israeli informants. He was arrested, tried, and convicted by Israel in 1988 for planning the abduction and murder of two Israeli soldiers and four Palestinians he believed were Israeli collaborators. Sinwar received four life sentences for murder before being freed after spending 22 years in prison as one of more than 1000 Palestinian terrorists who were swapped in 2011 for the release by Hamas of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Nevertheless, President Biden’s administration keeps sending Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan back to the region to try to negotiate a ceasefire/hostage release deal despite knowing that Hamas and Israel are unwilling to accept each other’s basic demands, including Hamas’ insistence upon a permanent ceasefire, and Israel’s post-Gaza war governing and security requirements, which exclude the participation of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
Because Hamas has rejected the U.S. and Israeli-backed ceasefire proposal that is currently on the table, it is unreasonable to expect Hezbollah to agree to give up its attacks on Israel as long as the fighting continues in Gaza.
Nevertheless, the Biden administration sent diplomatic adviser Amos Hochstein to Israel this week to try to de-escalate tensions in the North between Israel and Hezbollah before it intensifies into a region-wide war involving the U.S., Iran, and their allies in the region. He met with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israeli President Isaac Herzog, as well as opposition figures Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz before flying on to Lebanon to try to work out a ceasefire agreement that would allow the residents of both southern Lebanon and northern Israel to safely return and move back into their homes.
In late 2022, Hochstein served as the lead negotiator of a deal between Lebanon and Israel that resolved a decades-long border dispute between Israel and Lebanon over the rights to develop a huge underwater natural gas field located just off the Mediterranean coastline.
Hochstein last visited Israel in November with the same mission of trying to contain the cross-border violence between Israel and Hezbollah, as well as the attacks by the Houthis in Yemen on commercial shipping using the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. But he failed, even though a ceasefire and hostage exchange deal was actually in the works at that time.
Since Hochstein was not in a position to offer the Gaza ceasefire that Hezbollah demanded before halting its attacks on Israel, it seems apparent that his main mission was to press Israel to mute its military response to the escalating Hezbollah rocket and drone attacks before the fighting along the Israeli-Lebanese border spirals completely out of control.
In his meetings with the Israeli leaders, Hochstein repeated the same warning that if the fighting in the North escalates into a full-scale war with Hezbollah, Iran’s likely response would be an all-out missile attack on Israel which would be much harder for Israel to defend against than the one Iran launched in April.
But Netanyahu was not deterred, During his meeting with Hochstein, which also included Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, who replaced Netanyahu’s war cabinet following the resignation of Benny Gantz last week from the national unity government, Netanyahu reportedly told Hochstein to inform Lebanon’s Prime Minister, when he was to meet with him the next day, that unless he could convince Hezbollah to pull its forces back from the Israeli border to the far side of the Litani River, Israel was prepared to go to war to put an end to the Hezbollah missile attacks.
Furthermore, Israel was continuing to launch targeted strikes at senior Hezbollah military leaders, the most recent being a drone strike in southern Lebanon near the city of Tyre this week which killed Muhammad Ayoub, the commander of the rocket unit of Hezbollah’s Nasr division,
As a Jerusalem Post editorial correctly notes, “The world doesn’t want to admit it, and the United States thinks it can be contained, but the stark facts confirm that since the October 7 Hamas massacre in the South, its Iranian-backed ally, Hezbollah, has opened a second front with massive, damaging attacks on Israel,” that Israel must respond to.
“With Israel’s North burning up and its residents adamant about not returning to live there until Hezbollah is no longer breathing down their necks, it’s apparent to all that a major conflict is pending.”
The editorial also said that instead of pressuring Israel not to respond to these unprovoked Hezbollah attacks, “Israel’s allies, especially the United States, should be doing everything possible to put pressure on the Lebanese government to curb Hezbollah and stop the lethal fire, but instead, there are meek efforts to mediate and pathetic calls for Israel to avoid an escalation [bringing] the big players — Iran and the U.S. — [into] the conflict. . .
“Once that happens, we’ll hear the international bodies calling for an immediate end to the Israeli aggression on a sovereign country. There will be protests in major American cities, and news agencies will write harrowing reports about the suffering civilian population of Lebanon.
“Nobody will remember that for eight months, Israel was being attacked daily by Hezbollah while being told by the U.S. and the EU to hold tight and not make things worse.”
Even though Israel is trying to avoid saying so publicly, the grim reality is that its military is already fighting a two-front war, and the “swift and decisive victory” over Hamas that the Israeli people were promised in the wake of the October 7 attack is taking far longer than expected.
The blueprint for the current IDF strategy was announced in 2019 by then IDF Chief of Staff General Aviv Kochavi, who recognized that the primary immediate threats to Israel’s security were from terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. In response, the IDF would launch “swift, offensive operations relying on the use of smaller units supported by massive firepower” against “rocket-based terror armies,” including the possibility that Israel might have to fight on two fronts at once.
While the IDF has been able to reduce the Hamas terrorist force by nearly 50% since the start of the war, its remaining 9,000 to 12,000 active combatants, as well as its top leaders and the hostages it is still holding, can continue to hide and keep fighting indefinitely in the parts of its elaborate tunnel network which are still not under IDF control.
According to retired United States Army major John Spencer, who serves as chairman of urban warfare studies at the Modern War Institute (MWI) at the U.S. Army’s West Point Military Academy, “the lessons learned by Israel in Gaza — from dealing with information warfare in the age of social media, facing an enemy in an urban defense they prepared for 15 years, facing an enemy using lawfare, human shields, trying to get their own population killed, and preventing humanitarian efforts to aid their entire population, [and overcoming] the immense challenge of underground warfare…. will make the U.S. military better and more ready to face future challenges. . . [and will save American lives].”
Nevertheless, the Israeli military has not delivered the quick victory that was expected in Gaza because it did not understand the strategic significance of Hamas’ tremendous investment in its tunnel network. It also failed to anticipate Hamas’ cynical but effective use of large numbers of civilian Israeli hostages as powerful bargaining chips and expendable pawns in the ceasefire negotiations with Israel.
The scale of Hamas’ subterranean complex is unprecedented and the use of tunnels has contributed to casualties among civilians and soldiers. More consequentially, by sustaining underground operations over months, Hamas has delayed an Israeli victory, causing unimaginable diplomatic and political costs along the way.
In terms of tunnel warfare, the only war that compares is World War I, in which millions of British, French, and German soldiers died trying to expose, mine, and dig tunnels.
Hamas’ innovative and effective use of its elaborate underground network has reduced the strategic value of controlling the surface, altered the nature of military encounters, and transformed the use of human shields. Hamas’ system of tunnels is so sophisticated that it more closely resembles the fully equipped underground structures built by China, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Russia, and the United States designed to protect their command-and-control centers in the event of a nuclear conflict rather than the crude tunnels typically dug by terrorists or insurgent groups for use primarily as hideouts or the launching of surprise attacks. Hamas’ deeply buried facilities are fully capable of comfortably hosting its leaders, sustaining a secret weapons-production infrastructure, and ensuring the continuation of the chain of command in an emergency.
Hamas’ sophisticated tunnel network has overcome most of the difficulties inherent in underground warfare including the maintenance of communication, accurate navigation, as well as low oxygen levels, and claustrophobia. Hamas has been able to maintain much of its military capabilities over the past eight months because its maze of underground passageways throughout Gaza includes fully outfitted kitchens, sophisticated command and control and data centers, tiled bathrooms, fenced detention cells, and efficiently designed and equipped work areas.
Unlike the crude tunnels that Hamas dug under the Egyptian and Israeli borders in the past, today’s Hamas cement-lined tunnel network is much larger, less prone to collapse, well-lit, and generally much more livable in the long term. It includes designated sleeping quarters, meeting rooms, an effective ventilation system, electrical power, toilets, and washrooms, and an effective communication network.
For example, one of the tunnels that the IDF discovered near the Erez border crossing between Gaza and Israel, was almost ten feet wide and 164 feet deep and was dug using commercial-grade civilian boring equipment.
Hamas is also using its vastly enlarged and improved tunnel infrastructure for the hidden storage of massive stocks of fuel, food, and water, and to hide an extensive underground weapons-production operation. Hamas has also been able to maintain its military chain of command even when Israeli strikes disrupted its underground communication systems, and conduct its military operations against the IDF entirely from underground.
Hamas’ tunnel warfare strategy has significantly slowed down the pace of Israeli military operations, made the rescue of the hostages Hamas is holding more difficult, and made the swift and decisive victory over Hamas in Gaza that Israel had anticipated after October 7 impossible to achieve.
Hamas’ impressive strategic use of its massive subterranean infrastructure has forced the Israeli military to re-evaluate its previous strategy, which focused on eliminating the Hamas tunnels that had previously been used by Hamas fighters primarily to sneak into Israeli territory to launch small surprise attacks. Now the IDF is trying to develop an entirely new doctrine and methods for dealing with this new type of subterranean warfare.
In the initial stages of the current Gaza war, the IDF sought to gain control of the surface in order to expose and eventually enter the Hamas attack tunnels. But as the war progressed, the IDF’s focus shifted from finding where the cross-border tunnels begin and end to dealing with the impressive military capabilities of the tunnel network itself, which is reminiscent in its complexity and strategic importance of the World War I tunnel networks dug by the Germans and the Western Allies along the Western Front.
Today, the IDF arguably possesses the world’s most advanced anti-tunnel technology. Between the 2014 invasion of Gaza known as Operation Protective Edge and Hamas’ October 7 attack, the IDF significantly improved its capabilities to wage effective underground warfare. But as Israeli technology improved, the Hamas digging intensified, causing the IDF to underestimate the strategic ramifications of Hamas’ new kind of tunnel warfare, applied on a grand scale, while overestimating the ability of Israel’s new technology to counter it.
Hamas’ extensive tunnel network in Gaza has effectively diminished Israel’s technological advantages, slowed the IDF’s military responses, and enabled Hamas to protect its top leaders and hide its hostages in Gaza, while forcing the IDF to inflict much heavier civilian casualties than it wanted to.
By rendering most of its fighters invisible and out of reach, Hamas’ tunnel strategy has forced the IDF to develop new kinds of ground maneuvers to expose the terrorists and force them to fight on Israeli terms, rather than the so-called whack-a-mole game, in which the Hamas fighters pop out of the ground in an endless and deadly game of hide-and-seek, employing snipers, ambushes, booby traps, RPG’s and IED explosives.
When the IDF finally penetrates one section of the tunnel network, it usually finds that the Hamas fighters have already moved on to a different part of the network still under their control. The tunnel network enables Hamas’ fighters to disappear almost entirely whenever they want to. It also enables them to hunker down and eventually vanish into Gaza’s civilian population, waiting for the day when the IDF withdraws its troops, and making it safe for the remnants of a defeated Hamas to emerge once more.
Hamas has also re-invented the use of hostages in combat, first, by bringing innocent civilians inside its tunnels for use as human shields and, second, by using civilians from Israel and other countries, rather than Palestinian civilians, as bargaining chips in the negotiations which will determine the ultimate winners and losers in the war’s final outcome.
Hamas’ placement of captured Israeli civilians inside tunnels has had the intended effect of vastly complicating IDF rescue efforts, constraining its military operations, and immunizing key Hamas military assets from attack by Israel using its overwhelming advantage in firepower.
The civilians taken captive and held incommunicado by Hamas serve as both hostages and human shields. They have enabled Hamas to obtain objectives far beyond the release of disproportionately large numbers of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. The ongoing plight of the hostages and their loved ones has threatened to tear Israeli society apart and forced the Israeli government to pursue unattainable and irreconcilable objectives. This has empowered Hamas at the negotiating table and enabled it to pressure Israeli leaders to grant dangerous security concessions in return for the release of the remaining hostages, both living and dead.
At the end of November, Israel and Hamas agreed to a temporary ceasefire and the release of almost half of the hostages. But the deal collapsed after only a week because Hamas proved to be unable or unwilling to continue swapping jailed terrorists for the remaining Israeli civilian kidnap victims being held in Gaza.
When the fighting then resumed in northern Gaza, the Israeli army quickly destroyed Hamas’ military battalions in the area. That prompted the Hamas political leadership outside of Gaza to begin negotiating a post-war power-sharing agreement in early December with other Palestinian factions without Sinwar’s knowledge or permission.
When Sinwar discovered what was happening, he blasted the actions of his fellow Hamas political leaders as “shameful and outrageous.”
After noting that “We have the capabilities to continue fighting for months,” Sinwar insisted that, “As long as fighters are still standing and we have not lost the war, such negotiations should be immediately terminated.”
By the end of January, Israel’s military advance had slowed down due to stiffening Hamas resistance in Khan Younis, Sinwar’s hometown, causing Israel to begin losing more troops in combat.
On February 19, Israel set as a deadline the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a month later, for Hamas to agree to another ceasefire for the return of the remaining civilian hostages or face the launching of another massive Israeli ground offensive in Rafah, despite increasingly vocal opposition to the Israeli plan of attack from the Biden White House.
The development vindicated Sinwar’s prediction that “Israel’s journey in Rafah won’t be a walk in the park,” as well as his belief that the high civilian casualty count in Gaza would eventually result in strong worldwide pressure on Israel to give in to his demands.
In May, Israel again threatened to attack Rafah as the ceasefire talks remained deadlocked, primarily due to Sinwar’s opposition, but the Israeli attack that then finally materialized had been drastically scaled back to avoid crossing President Biden’s publicly announced “red line” against more massive civilian casualties in Gaza.
As a result, the IDF is still not in a position to force Hamas into a decisive battle, or capture its leaders and force them to surrender. Netanyahu has been left with no choice other than to continue the military occupation of Gaza and risk the Israeli army getting bogged down fighting a Hamas-led insurgency in densely populated areas of Gaza for months or years to come.
This is the outcome that Sinwar had foreseen years ago when he first became the leader of Hamas in Gaza. He knew that even though Hamas would, in the end, lose a war with Israel, that military victory would force Israel into the difficult role of overseeing more than two million hostile Palestinians for the foreseeable future.
“For Netanyahu, a victory would be even worse than a defeat,” Sinwar told an Italian journalist in a 2018 interview published by Yedioth Achronoth.
“We make the headlines only with blood,” Sinwar said in the interview at the time with an Italian journalist. “No blood, no news.”
Despite Israel’s failed efforts to find him in the tunnels and kill him, Sinwar has survived and continues to manage Hamas’ war effort with his notorious chief military strategist, Mohammed Deif, who has been at the top of the Israeli military’s most wanted list since 1995. Sinwar’s ultimate goal is to obtain a permanent ceasefire that will allow Hamas to declare a historic victory over Israel and complete the process of wresting the leadership of the entire Palestinian national cause from the failing hands of Mahmoud Abbas and his notoriously corrupt and incompetent Palestinian Authority.
At the same time, because he cannot risk losing America’s diplomatic and military support, Netanyahu has been forced to at least pay lip service to the politically self-serving military advice he is getting from President Biden and his advisors, particularly with respect to the weakening of the Israeli assault on Rafah, which appears designed primarily to help Biden win a second term by appeasing the pro-Palestinian demands of the progressive activists who dictate the Democrat policy agenda.
Biden’s short-sighted refusal to confront Iran over its role as the chief strategist and arms supplier for Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis, also means that White House leverage in the region has been reduced to pressuring Israel into compromises with its enemies which it cannot accept without risking its survival. That is yet another reason why Hamas leader Sinwar and Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah have been emboldened and now believe that, with regard to the current war in Gaza and the fighting in the North, time is on their side.
Meanwhile, the extended and dangerously inconclusive border war with Hezbollah has become a major political issue in Israel, with the Israelis who have been forced to flee their homes along the Lebanese border demanding that the army launch a full-scale offensive. But if Hezbollah is attacked by Israel, Iran is likely to intervene because, “Hezbollah is the crown jewel in the Iranian empire of terror and evil,” according to Jonathan Conricus, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “[It] is by far the most powerful Iranian proxy equipped with nation-state capabilities and even with more firepower than several European militaries have today,” Conricus told Fox News.
According to the IDF and the U.S. State Department, Iran has been funding Hezbollah at the rate of over $700 million a year, and plays an integral and essential role in Iran’s terrorist activities in Lebanon, Syria, throughout Europe, and even in Latin America.
According to Conricus, “Hezbollah is far more powerful than Hamas across the board in every military metric. In terms of the number of rockets they have, the range, the accuracy of the payload or size of the warhead, also in terms of the amount of personnel, armed fighters, their training, and their equipment.
“Strategically speaking, Hezbollah is currently enjoying a situation where it has Israel exactly where it wants it,” the former IDF spokesman added. “On the strategic level, Hezbollah is benefitting from an attrition in Israeli capabilities and from a very challenging diplomatic situation.
“As long as the international community fails to understand the severity and doesn’t act with urgency in order to facilitate a diplomatic deal that will return Israeli civilians to their homes [in the North] safely, the only other option that remains is the military one, which Israel, unfortunately, will have to use in order to implement the responsibility of any government to safeguard the lives of its civilians,” Conricus concluded.
Researcher Tal Beeri, who is the head of the research department at the Alma Institute, recently told Maariv, “If an all-out war breaks out, Israel will absorb a volume of fire it has never seen before — including what was seen in 2006.”
According to the Alma Institute’s estimates, should war break out in the North, Hezbollah will be able to launch several thousand drones and missiles at Israel every day for an extended period of time. Hezbollah is estimated to have an arsenal including 150,000 mortars, 65,000 rockets with a range of up to 50 miles 5,000 rockets and missiles with a range of 120 miles, and another 5,000 missiles with an even longer range, capable of reaching almost every major city in Israel. In addition, Hezbollah has 2,500 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as well as advanced anti-aircraft missiles and long-range cruise missiles.
According to the IDF’s website, Hezbollah currently maintains a standing army of 20,000 to 25,000 full-time fighters, in addition to tens of thousands of reserves. Many of these are experienced fighters who are veterans of the Syrian Civil War. In addition, Hezbollah maintains an elite fighting force known as its Radwan Unit, which was trained by members of Iran’s IRGC Quds force.
Beeri predicts that “The area that will be under the largest volume of fire is the entire northern region up to Haifa.” He also predicts that major Israeli cities further to the south, including Hadera, Netanya, and the heavily populated Gush Dan region, will also be attacked by Hezbollah using ballistic missiles, such as the Fatah-110, which has a range of almost 200 miles, is very accurate, and carries 1100 pounds of explosives in its warhead.
Beeri also claims that his research institute received a copy of “an internal proclamation which was sent by Hezbollah to its members before October 7 which told them to be ready for war with Israel, but that never happened because Hamas attacked Israel before Hezbollah was ready to do the same thing. Beeri believes that Hezbollah’s proclamation “is a sign of things to come,” and that Hezbollah still wants a war with Israel, including an invasion of the Galil, in much the same way that Hamas invaded southern Israel on October 7.
He also believes that a series of isolated attacks by Hezbollah on Israel since the summer of 2022, were actually attempts to draw Israel into a larger conflict. That is why Beeri also believes that even if Hezbollah does stop firing rockets at Israel following a ceasefire in Gaza, “it will only be a matter of time before the fighting will resume between Israel and the terrorist organization because it has already decided to launch an attack against us.
“October 7 only froze Hezbollah’s plans — it did not cancel them.”
Meanwhile, a delegation of almost a dozen Israelis who have been forced to flee from their homes in the North came to Washington last week to meet with nine congressional leaders from both parties, two Biden administration officials, and leaders of secular American Jewish organizations, to deliver their first-person accounts of the “intolerable situation in the North,” and to ask for “America’s backing” if Israel decides to attack Hezbollah in self-defense.
Their mission was organized by the Israeli Advocacy Group, which was founded by Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States. Oren headed the group of delegates that went to the White House for a meeting with Russ Headlee, National Security Council director for Jordan and Lebanon, and Samantha Sutton, the National Security Council’s director for Israel and Palestinian Affairs.
Oren called the White House meeting “warm and productive.” But he also told the Jerusalem Post that, “We have long-standing differences with the United States” regarding the facts on the ground. “The United States believes in a country called Lebanon with an army. We believe there’s a country called Hezbollah,” with an army of Hezbollah terrorists.
Oren also recalled President Joe Biden’s warning message to Iran in April against attacking Israel again. “In the past, [Biden] has said: ‘Don’t.’ Remember that message?” Oren asked rhetorically. “That message should be reinforced now,” Oren declared.
The former Israeli ambassador also said that the United States needs to give Israel its full backing to “do what it needs to do” to neutralize the Hezbollah threat and to permit the Israeli forces operating in Gaza to complete their victory over Hamas without further criticism or interference.
“We need to finish up major military operations in Gaza as soon as possible so we can focus our energies on the north,” Oren added.
“What’s happening is that Hezbollah is realizing Israel’s worst nightmare, which is a war of creeping attrition, where every day the rocket fires are advancing southward, but Hezbollah is not giving us a clear trigger that we can respond to.”
“At what point does it become a full state of war, [so that we can defend ourselves]?” Oren asked in frustration.
“We cannot play by Hezbollah’s rules here, we have to break out of this,” Oren said. “It would be extremely important if we had America’s backing.”



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