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FRIDAY, 18 APR 2014
09:04 AM Beirut time
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Israeli military says it will ‘flush out’ Hezbollah, not ‘turn Lebanon into dust’
File - An Israeli missile targets south Lebanon's Zahrani Highway on the first day of the 2006 summer war with Israel. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
File - An Israeli missile targets south Lebanon's Zahrani Highway on the first day of the 2006 summer war with Israel. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
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BEIRUT: Hezbollah and Israel are preparing for future military operations with each side looking to inflict the most losses on its foe, according to an official Israeli Army blog entry published Tuesday.

An unnamed Israeli military commander of a northern brigade interviewed for the post said Israel would directly target Hezbollah members in future conflicts.

“Although it would be the easy solution, we can’t turn Lebanon to the dust through aerial strikes. We have to go in and flush out the terrorists hiding in the ground,” he said.

Hezbollah, according to the commander, has gained both arms and experience in Syria and is stockpiling weapons in south Lebanon homes. “There are houses where the family lives on the first floor and the basement is a weapons depot,” he said. “In order to shut down Hezbollah’s threat, we will need to maneuver quickly and intensively in houses in Lebanon where its weapons are hidden.”

Although the party has sent fighters to Syria to support President Assad, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Nasrallah reiterated the importance of continuing the struggle against Israel in a recent speech. “The elimination of Israel is a Lebanese interest,” he said on the occasion of Jerusalem Day. “We must stress the importance of this conflict and confrontation with the Zionist project.”

Israel is preparing for an inevitable clash, according to the post. “In the next confrontation with Hezbollah, we do not assess that Hezbollah will attempt to take control of Israeli territory. We expect them to attack with rockets aimed at Israeli cities. ”

Hezbollah has previously asserted that they have the capacity to strike any urban center in Israel. The Israeli military confirmed the claim last summer.

Dr. Hilal Khashan, a Professor of political studies at the American University in Beirut, does not believe Hezbollah is planning an attack. “It’s highly unlikely that they [Hezbollah] will provoke Israel. That would spell Hezbollah’s doomsday,” he said.

The possibility for military action between Israel and Hezbollah must be situated within a broader geopolitical context, Khashan said. Because of the recent rapprochement between the West and Hezbollah’s main backer Iran, the latter “is not in the aim to escalate against the U.S. or against Israel,” Khashan explained.

A pre-emptive attack by Israel against Hezbollah is equally unlikely, he said. “I don’t know why Israel would take on Hezbollah while the latter is heavily involved in the Syrian conflict.”

Drawing resources away from Lebanon’s southern border, “Hezbollah’s involvement [in Syria] is ideal for Israel,” Khashan said.

Still, Israel remains on high alert, particularly after the discovery and subsequent bombing of tunnels used by Hamas in Gaza last month.

“If Hamas is digging terrorist tunnels, I believe that Hezbollah, which has more funds and better capabilities, is doing exactly the same,” the Israeli commander said in the blog post.

In November, senior security sources told The Daily Star Israel had stepped up its spying activities along the border with Lebanon, fearing Hezbollah may have built an underground tunnel into the Jewish state.

The source said Israel was increasingly worried that Hezbollah might have established a passage connecting south Lebanon to an unspecified area across the border. The source added that Israelis had “serious” concerns Hezbollah might have dug a tunnel, prompting their military to survey the settlement of Metula, located near the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Kila.

Khashan believes, however, that the Israeli Army’s bellicose blog post is more of a warning. “They are telling Hezbollah, ‘We are ready for you.’”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 04, 2013, on page 3.
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