March 20-24, 2017
The High Level Military Group (HLMG) Fact-Finding Mission to Study the threat by Hezbollah on the ground.
The HLMG could clearly observe that if Hezbollah starts again a massive launching of missiles towards Israel, the IDF will face an asymmetric conflict against an enemy who fights inside urban populations and takes advantage of it. The IDF procedures and strategic planning, as observed by the HLMG, show that Israeli forces are well prepared to minimize civil causalities and to fully abide by the rules of engagement compliances established by the Laws of Armed Conflict ? just as it has done in the past.
The next war between Israel and Hezbollah might be getting near. Analysts and experts have pointed it out and, in case of another outbreak of violence, the conflict would be tougher and bigger than the one in 2006 due to Hezbollah’s evolution throughout the last years.
Concerned about this issue, the High Level Military Group (HLMG), a widely successful project sponsored by the Friends of Israel Initiative, has decided to study the threat by Hezbollah on the ground and how Israel is prepared to confront a new escalation of hostilities.
From March 20 to 24, the group carried out a fact-finding mission in Israel with an extraordinary level of access — as the one in 2015, when the HLMG studied Operation Protective Edge. As a result, HLMG members visited training camps of Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) for urban warfare and the Syrian and Lebanon border. They were briefed by top level officials in the IDF commands involved in the planning of an eventual engagement against Hezbollah (the Northern Command, the Air Force, the Navy, the Home Front Command, the Intelligence, and the International Law Department.) The HLMG also met with Israel’s Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense in order to get firsthand information regarding the Hezbollah threat.
For this new project, the HLMG has added prestigious new members: Lord Richard Dannatt, former Chief of the General Staff of the United Kingdom, and U.S. Lieutenant General Michael Barbero, former director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).
In the mission, the HLMG was informed that, since the end of the 2006 Lebanon war, Hezbollah has amassed 100,000 missiles (including mid- and long-range) and has also acquired game-changing, Russian-made, Yakhont anti-ship missiles (able to attack Israeli ships,) nuclear facilities (as Hassan Nasrallah threatened last month,) and gas fields in the sea. According to intelligence sources, Hezbollah is also equipped with Iran-made Mohajer-4 drones.
In addition to its armory, Hezbollah has undergone a transformation after years fighting in the ongoing civil war in Syria under the command of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), that is deployed in Syria in order to support Bashar al-Assad’s regime. According to Wall Street Journal correspondent in the Middle East, there is a clear winner in the civil war: Hezbollah.
The HLMG could clearly observe that if Hezbollah starts again a massive launching of missiles towards Israel, the IDF will face an asymmetric conflict against an enemy who fights inside urban populations and takes advantage of it. The IDF procedures and strategic planning, as observed by the HLMG, show that Israeli forces are well prepared to minimize civil causalities and to fully abide by the rules of engagement compliances established by the Laws of Armed Conflict — just as it has done in the past.
Last but not least, after the fact-finding mission, the HLMG is totally aware that Hezbollah is the main Iranian proxy in the Middle East, the “A-Team” of terrorist groups in the world, as former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage put it. Hezbollah is not an ordinary jihadist group in the Middle East, but one of Iran’s tools to expand its influence and power in the region and to serve as a forward line against the State of Israel. Nowadays, Hezbollah receives funds from Iran in an estimated amount of 100 million euros per year and it is under the command of the Quds Force, the IRGC’s foreign branch.
In coming weeks, the HLMG will release a report with its key findings and conclusions of the mission, including an in-depth analysis on Hezbollah’s strategic and military capability, its qualitative win due to involvement in the ongoing Syrian civil war, the Iranian-backed-and-led strategy to dominate the Middle East, the difficulties to defeat Hezbollah on Lebanese ground, the warfare conditions in vast urban areas where Hezbollah troops will presumably hide, the role of Lebanese forces, and the resilience of the Israeli population, among other issues.
A new Hezbollah campaign of massive rocket and missile launching against the north of Israel and the IDF response would start a hard and difficult war for Israel. It will also initiate another international attempt to delegitimize Israel’s right to self-defense. Therefore, thanks to the HLMG upcoming report, we at the Friends of Israel Initiative will be better prepared to help Israel in the international arena in case of an eventual war with Hezbollah.