While Israel has many security concerns, its biggest worry remains Hezbollah, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott said Wednesday. Speaking at a memorial ceremony for soldiers who fell during the Second Lebanon War, Eisenkott said that Hezbollah sustained a major blow during that war, and any recovery from that war has evaporated in the Syrian war, in which Hezbollah is also badly bogged down.
“Hezbollah was badly harmed in the Second Lebanon War in 2006, losing 1,300 to 1,400 of its people,” Eisenkott said. “When the war was over, the IDF had taken much of southern Lebanon, penetrating between seven and 14 kilometers over the border.” This was the area Hezbollah was most active in.
And over the past several years, Hezbollah has been sending fighters to Syria at the behest of its patron, Iran, the Chief of Staff said. “Over the past three years they have lost another 1,700 fighters, and some 7,000 were injured, clearly another major blow.” Among those killed in recent years have been leaders and founders of the organization, including Imad Mughniyeh, killed in a Damascus car bombing in 2008 – leading to a great loss of morale among Hezbollah terrorists. With that, said Eisenkott, “the organization is getting a lot of experience in warfare, and we cannot ignore this.”
Despite its troubles, Eisenkott still considers Hezbollah Israel’s number one security headache. “We cannot allow ourselves to be fooled by their problems,” he said. “We have been building up security in the north, and dealing with Hezbollah is the IDF’s priority. We are prepared with both a defensive and offensive plan, and are very vigilant.”
In May, Lebanese media reports said that Israel and the United States were planning joint operations against Hezbollah targets in Syria and Lebanon. The purpose of the attacks is to deal a mortal blow to Hezbollah’s military infrastructure. Targets include weapons storehouses, training areas, military barracks and installations, amongst other issues. Last year, the Gulf Cooperation Council labeled Hezbollah a terror group, and the group was prominently framed as such in President Trump’s speech to Arab and Muslim leaders in Riyadh on his recent Middle East visit.