Gantz: Iran, Hezbollah Targeted UNIFIL Operations in Lebanon

A United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) peacekeeping force vehicle patrols in the southern coastal border Lebanese-Israeli town of Naqoura, Lebanon, June 6. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Wednesday revealed that Iran and Hezbollah had worked together to attack U.N. peacekeeping forces in Lebanon.

He called the incident “another blow by Iran and Hezbollah to Lebanese citizens and stability in the country” in an address to the 2022 Cyber Week conference at the Tel Aviv University.

Commenting on the footage released by Hamas of Hisham al-Sayed, the Bedouin Israeli held by the terrorist group, Gantz said the video was an attempt at blackmail through the use of a humanitarian issue: “Hamas is holding the four boys [al-Sayed, Avera Mengistu, and IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul] in violation of international law and ethics. Hamas is responsible for this, and our expectation from the international community is to act against this vile conduct by Hamas.

“The State of Israel acts with a variety of means and continues to turn over every stone to bring the boys home. As we’ve said in the past, this is a humanitarian issue. That’s how we see it, and on this basis, we will continue to act. Attempts at blackmail and psychological warfare will not influence our stand and our conduct,” he said.

Describing joint activities by Iran and Hezbollah, the defense minister said: “Iran is also operating its emissaries in the realm of cyber. I can reveal today that Iranian security forces, in cooperation with Hezbollah, recently acted to harm the operations of UNIFIL forces in Lebanon. This is through the implementation of a cyber campaign aimed at stealing material on UNIFIL preparedness in the area and its use by Hezbollah. This is another blow by Hezbollah and Iran to Lebanese citizens and Lebanon’s stability.”

He said, “Israel is familiar with the cyber systems of its rivals and its paths of action. In recent years, we have witnessed a phenomenon of groups of Iranian-backed hackers who act against Israel and other countries. The new emissaries are terrorists with keyboards who will meet the same fate as other terrorist organizations. We know who they are, we strike them and their dispatchers. And today, too, they are in our crosshairs, and not just in the cyber dimension. No attack on Israeli citizens will be ignored. And the responsibility is on the attackers and the state funding and those dispatching them. A cyberattack can be met with a variety of means in the realm of cyber and other areas.”

Gantz continued, “Iran is leading cyberterrorism and making moves aimed at influencing democratic processes and regimes, as was the case in the U.S. presidential elections and additional attempts Israel is aware of. Actions like those by the Shahid Cawa unit that collected intelligence on ships, gas stations and industrial factories in a number of countries were carried out under the direct directive of the Iranian leadership and the Revolutionary Guards, as was revealed in the investigations.”

He noted that in recent years, Israel has prevented “many attempts to hack into private and public firms in Israel and overseas. I also call on the public to demand ‘cyber accountability’ and punish companies and organizations that do not act in accordance with the guidelines.”

Delineating Israel’s plans to contend with various threats, Gantz said, “Our chief mission in the military, in the various security industries and organizations, is to build the people, train them and keep them. The Chief of Staff [Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi] and I have made this issue one of the central missions of the relevant units. We are constantly examining the buildup of force – in terms of both manpower as well as the issue of training and the issue of missions. In the coming years, we will also need to assess the organization, management and operation of cyberwarfare, its offensive and defensive traits in the IDF, and the entire security system.”

Gantz concluded by calling for cooperation with the world: “There is great importance to our cooperation with the world against Iran and in the realm of cyber. We are expanding this cooperation we are building in the region against Iran in regard to defense and various threats to the cyber realm as well.”

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