by Yoav Limor
Hezbollah is trying to recoup from its losses in Syria and Israel's exposure of its tunnels, but that doesn't mean the organization has forgotten its main goal – to strike a painful blow to Israel that will echo throughout the Middle East.
|The massive Hezbollah tunnel whose dimensions the IDF reported on Wednesday | Photo: Lilach Shoval|
With all the astonishment at Hezbollah’s impressive tunnel project, the tunnels themselves were just a tool that the organization intended to use to implement its plan to attack the Galilee.
It was a grandiose plan that entailed sending hundreds of fighters into Israeli territory, all at once, to occupy territory and commit killings and abductions, creating an unprecedented effect that would echo throughout the Middle East for years and make Hezbollah the first Arab entity to not only bring the war to Israel, but also cause physical and mental harm the like of which Israel has never known.
Fighters from Hezbollah’s elite Radwan Unit, named after one of the nicknames for Imad Mughniyeh, the Hezbollah military commander who was killed in Damascus in 2008 in an action that is attributed to Israel, was supposed to carry out the incursion. The unit, which was established for the purpose of executing covert actions against Israel, has been fighting in the Syrian war for the past several years, gaining extensive operational experience while suffering heavy casualties.
At the end of the war in Syria, most of the Radwan fighters returned to Lebanon, and in the past few months have been moving to the south of the country. We cannot assume this means that Hezbollah is looking for a war with Israel. The opposite: the organization is still licking its wounds, as well as suffering from the exposure and destruction of its tunnels, and is in financial trouble due to the economic situation in Iran, which led Tehran to slash funding for Hezbollah. It certainly won’t rush into another, much more difficult, war.
Nevertheless, the unit – with its special capabilities – continuing to dig in southern Lebanon shows that Hezbollah has not given up its basic intentions and its intensive preparations for its next war with Israel. The exposure of its tunnels certainly requires it to change its operational plans, but the basic idea remains the same: a ground operation heading south, toward the Galilee, with the purpose of wreaking death and destruction.
Radwan is supposed to spearhead the action, which will be accompanied by a storm of rockets, mortars, anti-tank missiles, drones, and plenty of other tactics. All of these comprise a real challenge for Israel, certainly as Radwan closes the distance as it continues to move south. For Israel, that carries certain advantages: a unit of that size needs a train of logistic and command support, which provides plenty of targets.
After the success of the IDF’s Northern Shield operation, this will be the Northern Command’s main challenge for the foreseeable future – to expose any new plans Hezbollah comes up with and prepare a double response, one that will deter Hezbollah and root out its desire to fight, or if not – will guarantee major achievements for the IDF.
Still, make no mistake – despite Israel’s victories, Hezbollah is a serious, devious enemy that is the IDF’s biggest challenge right now. The recent blows to its operations will not cause it to take its eyes off its goal, which is to attack Israel. To do so, Hezbollah will stop at nothing – above or underground.
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