Ex-IDF Commander on Soleimani's Assassination: Hezbollah is Likely to Serve Its Revenge Cold

© REUTERS / KHALID AL-MOUSILYA member of the Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary forces holds a flag of the Kataib Hezbollah militia group during a protest to condemn air strikes on their bases, in Baghdad, Iraq, 31 December 2019.
A member of the Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary forces holds a flag of the Kataib Hezbollah militia group during a protest to condemn air strikes on their bases, in Baghdad, Iraq, 31 December 2019.  - Sputnik International
Iranians have already promised to avenge the assassination of Qasem Suleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' extraterritorial Quds Force and one of the Islamic Republic's most prominent military leaders, who was killed on Friday morning in a US airstrike in Iraq.

The Iranian rage is directed not only at Washington, which carried out the attack that killed Qasem Suleimani last week, but also at Israel; Iranians believe the Jewish state assisted the US in its "defensive" operation.

Although nobody knows what the outcome of this fury might be, Israel is preparing itself for all possible scenarios including the bolstering of the security presence in its embassies around the world and putting its northern command on high alert.

Ready since 1948:

Yossi Peled, Israel's Defence Forces' former commander of the Northern Front, says the country has no other option but to always be ready.

"We are living in an unpredictable area, surrounded by Muslim neighbours. So we are always on a high alert, always with eyes opened wide and always sensitive to what's going on around us. We don't have the privilege to act otherwise."

Israel has every reason to worry. While in the south the Jewish state is combating the militants of Hamas that have been challenging the country since the early 2000s, in the north it is the threat of Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite movement allied with Iran, that is perhaps the biggest cause for concern.

According to estimates, the organisation boasts an army of 50,000 and possesses an arsenal of up to 150 thousand rockets, more than the combined number possessed by all NATO states, with the exception of the US.

Hundreds of them are long-range, which means that they could reach any target in Israel. This is in addition to their array of remotely-controlled aircraft, shore to ship, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles that make Hezbollah one of the strongest fighting forces in the region.

And they have tunnels, too. The first ones were discovered during the Second Lebanon War of 2006. Allegedly designed, constructed and financed by Iran, those tunnels were much more sophisticated than what Israel saw on its southern frontier when fighting Hamas and included kitchens, bathrooms and clinics - everything that a fighter might need while combating his enemy.

In 2019, the IDF revealed that six such tunnels penetrated the Israeli border with the aim of carrying out terror attacks against Israel, including the murder and kidnapping of civilians.

War won't happen:

However, despite Hezbollah's military capabilities, Peled is certain that the Islamic group will not start a full-scale war with Israel. At least not now.

Lebanon suffered a serious blow in 2006 after Hezbollah's militants kidnapped the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, sparking a military confrontation with Israel. At the time, Tel Aviv had destroyed more than 125 thousand homes andd killed over a thousand people, many of whom were civilians.

The one-month war also caused severe devastation to the Lebanese civilian infrastructure; it suffered damage estimated at $2.8 billion.

But there are other reasons for Hezbollah's restraint towards Israel. Firstly, the group is still embroiled in the Syrian war, deploying up to 10 thousand fighters to ensure that Syrian President Bashar Al Assad remains in power.

Secondly, the US sanctions imposed on Hezbollah continue to squeeze their financial capabilities. And, finally, the ongoing Lebanese protests that kicked off in October 2019 as a result of the public's frustration with government corruption - of which Hezbollah is an integral part - drove the final nail in the movement’s ability and will to open another front with Israel.

Yet, the motivation to avenge the death of the slane commander is still there.

"It was a good thing that Soleimani, the man who surrounded Israel with terror cells, was eliminated but his departure will not stop these groups from their attempts to challenge Israel," Peled said over the phone, adding that Hezbollah, just like Iranians, like to serve their revenge cold.

And Israel will be watching the situation closely, ready to attack if red lines are crossed.

"If Israel's security is at risk, we will defend ourselves. History performed a miracle by establishing the state of Israel in 1948. But history only gives gifts once. That's why we have to cherish this country and protect it. It is our moral command before anything else".
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