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Israel keeps close eye on Lebanon

What happened: Israel’s political and defence officials are monitoring events in Lebanon with great concern.

  • Earlier this week Prime Minister Naftali Bennett described Lebanon as, “on the verge of collapse”.
  • Speaking to graduates of Israel’s National Defence College he added: “I would say that it is already collapsing like all the other countries that Iran has taken over and is basing itself in. Everything that Iran touches is destroyed. This time it is the citizens of Lebanon who are paying the price. Hezbollah, as Iran’s proxy, is endangering the citizens of Lebanon and their future.”
  • Bennett reiterated: “The citizens of Lebanon are not the enemy. In effect, we and the citizens of Lebanon have a common enemy – Hezbollah and Iran. There is only one difference: We have all the tools and the capabilities to deal with this enemy.”
  • On Wednesday, the IDF released to the media a video of a Hezbollah weapons storeroom in the village Ebba in the Nabatiya district.
  • As part of the IDF’s campaign to undermine Hezbollah’s legitimacy, the video footage showed the weapons storeroom is located just 25 meters away from the only school in the village.
  • According to the IDF, the decision to store weapons in such close proximity to the school places the lives of more than 300 pupils in danger.
  • This latest revelation is thought to be just one example of thousands of other similar sites across southern Lebanon.

Context: Lebanon’s political crisis only deepened yesterday when Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri declared that he would not be able to agree on cabinet positions with President Michel Aoun.

  • This latest political setback only compounds the country’s crisis, described by the World Bank as one of the worst in the world in 150 years.
  • In the last year Lebanon’s GDP has fallen by 25 per cent and the value of its currency has decreased by 92 per cent. More than 55 per cent of Lebanon’s citizens live below the poverty line.
  • This week also marked 15 years since the start of the Second Lebanon War. Head of the IDF Northern Command Maj. Gen. Amir Baram warned “that the Northern Command on its own has 20 times the number of targets it had in 2006, and there are many other targets that are situated deeper inside Lebanese territory”.
  • IDF Military Intelligence estimates suggest Hezbollah has over 130,000 rockets and mortar shells. In the next conflict Hezbollah will be able to fire 3,000 rockets a day toward Israel. Israel is most concerned about Hezbollah’s precision-guided missiles.
  • The IDF’s decision to disclose the existence of Hezbollah’s weapons storeroom in Ebba is another example of their intelligence capabilities.
  • It also serves as another warning to the international community that Hezbollah, like Hamas, deliberately embeds its military infrastructure in civilian areas.

Looking forward:  Despite the IDF preparedness, the northern border is quiet and there are no signs of an impending war.

  • Both Israel and Hezbollah have recently shown restraint, but just as in 2006 there is continued concern that an isolated incident could lead to wider conflict.
  • The IDF’s current assessment is that the severe economic crisis in Lebanon is likely to rein in Hezbollah and prevent it from starting a war with Israel in the short term.
  • However, if Iran can fill the economic vacuum, it could make Lebanon even more captive to its agenda in the longer term.

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