by: Ilse Strauss, News Bureau Chief
The list of those who seek to reduce Israel to a footnote in history is a long one. At present, the top spot on the list as Israel’s most imminent threat goes to Hezbollah—and for good reason. The Iranian-backed Lebanese terror group openly hails Israel’s annihilation as its chief aim, possesses an impressive arsenal of sophisticated weapons to achieve the objective and is perched within easy striking distance on the Jewish state’s northern border.
Israel has suffered nearly four decades of Hezbollah terror. The Jewish state and the terror group also faced each other on the battlefield once, and experts agree that a second round is a matter of when, not if. But this time, they say, Israel will face a foe that is more determined, more devious, battle-hardened and armed to the teeth. This round, they warn, will be bloodier, more violent and costlier than anything Israel has experienced in nearly half a century.
The Rise to Terror Superpower
Hezbollah was born in the chaotic crib of civil war-torn southern Lebanon in the early 1980s—with former Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini presiding proudly over the birth as midwife.
In late 1982, Khomeini dispatched the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to southern Lebanon to train and equip a fighting force from the local population that would answer Tehran’s clarion call for jihad (holy war) against Israel. The emerging terror group called itself Hezbollah, Arabic for the “Party of Allah,” pledging allegiance to Khomeini and highlighting the establishment of an Islamic Republic in Lebanon, eliminating Israel and opposing America as its raison d’être.
Over the past 38 years, the Party of Allah waged a relentless war of terror against Israel. As the first Islamist group to employ suicide bombings, Hezbollah has been responsible for turning buses, embassies, army barracks and cultural centers into raging infernos. Its terror tally also includes hijacking a number of planes, targeted assassinations, murder, kidnapping foreign soldiers and firing rockets at civilian populations.
The 2006 Second Lebanon War erupted after Hezbollah terrorists crossed into Israel, murdering eight soldiers and kidnapping two. Thirty-four days of fighting later, a cease-fire signaled the end of the war, and Israel’s northern border returned to a tense calm. Apart from the occasional flare-up, the past 14 years have seen little direct fighting. Yet don’t be fooled by the peaceful façade, warns Israel Defense Forces Major (Res.) Elliot Chodoff, commanding officer of the Population Behavior and Information Unit of the Northern Region in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) Home Front Command. Hezbollah and Iran are hard at work to unleash the perfect storm on Israeli civilians.
All Quiet on the Northern Front?
Hezbollah functions as a terror army, rather than a terror group, explains Chodoff. Its fighting force numbers some 45,000, many of whom have gained valuable battlefield experience fighting alongside Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian Civil War. Tehran also used war-torn Syria as a supply route to smuggle game-changing weapons to Hezbollah, and the group now boasts an arsenal of 150,000–300,000 precision long- and medium-range rockets, larger than that of all Europe’s armies combined.
Chodoff puts the facts in perspective. “Hezbollah started the war in 2006 with 20,000 rockets. We got hit with 4,000 over five weeks, 100 to 150 daily. Thirty-nine civilians were killed. What we’re looking at in the next round is a minimum of 2,000 rockets carrying 60 to 70 kilograms [132 to 154 lbs] of thermobaric explosives per day. They can also now launch dozens of rockets simultaneously at a single target, meaning the Iron Dome isn’t going to work.”
“The next round is going to be extremely violent,” he says. “It won’t be a repeat of 2006. The scale we’re talking about is Yom Kippur War, a scale that’s not been seen for  years.”
Then there’s the Hezbollah tunnel network…In December 2018, the IDF destroyed six underground tunnels leading from Lebanon into the Jewish state. The threat is, however, far from neutralized. “Nobody believes we got them all,” Chodoff cautions. “We also know they’re digging more.”
“Hezbollah has 11 or 12 assault companies along the border. Their purpose is to cross the border and take ground…The purpose of the tunnels is to send pioneering units through first to cut off Israeli communities from the rest of the country…so that the assault companies can move easier. This is their plan. We know it. And they know we know. But we don’t have enough forces in the area to prevent it. They know that too.”
Israel is, of course, preparing to answer such an attack. “We won’t be playing games,” Chodoff holds. “We have a solution.”
The solution can, however, cause Israel’s image untold damage. During the early 2000s, Hezbollah drove the non-Shiites from southern Lebanon and repopulated the area with poor Shiite families on a simple trade-off: in exchange for all-expenses-paid houses, the terror group uses the family homes as weapons caches and rocket launching pads. Other missile storage favorites include schools, hospitals and mosques. Hezbollah’s strategy thus turned southern Lebanon’s civilian communities into the frontline, making it impossible to distinguish civilian from terrorist and civilian target from terror target.
Hezbollah uses human sacrifices, not human shields, explains Chodoff. “A human shield is when I put civilians around a target and then inform you. A human sacrifice is when I put civilians around a target and don’t tell you. They pack the target with civilians so they’ll be killed when we hit. We saw that often during the Second Lebanon War.”
The bottom line? When Hezbollah’s pioneering units stream through the terror tunnels to cut off Israeli communities, making way for the assault companies…when Israel retaliates in full force—with crushing aerial and ground assaults—southern Lebanon’s family homes, schools, hospitals and mosques packed tightly with terrorists, explosives and missiles will be the battlefield. And the international media will have a field day condemning Israel for the civilian death toll.
Not If, But When
Hezbollah has been hard at work building up its arsenal. The Party of Allah is firmly burrowed into the civilian population and is stashed safely among its human sacrifices. Its fighting force is trained and eager for battle. So what is Hezbollah waiting for? Iran, answers Chodoff. And Iran, in turn, is waiting until it’s ready to strike before giving the command. “They’re building a huge base in Syria. The Iranians have time. They can wait another five years. Or not.”
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