Afew hours before a drone infiltrated Israeli airspace from Lebanon, OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Amir Baram warned of overt action against Hezbollah if it continues to build up terrorist infrastructure along the border, and that Lebanon risks paying a heavy price for its cooperation with the terrorist group.
“We will continue to act to thwart its [Hezbollah’s] efforts to threaten our security, covertly and overtly as required, and if war is imposed on us, we will exact a heavy price from this organization and those who give it backing, wherever necessary,” he said Tuesday night at a memorial commemorating the 13th anniversary of the Second Lebanon War.
“Hezbollah’s loyalty was and remains to the supreme leader in Iran, not to the citizens of Lebanon,” he continued. “As a direct result, the Lebanese state is liable to pay a heavy price for its cooperation with Shi’ite terrorism in the next campaign.”
Baram accused Hezbollah of violating United Nations Resolution 1701, which set the terms to end the 34-day war fought between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.
“The 13 years that have passed since the Second Lebanon War and the security stability that it brought to the region are the best evidence of the deterrence created by the war,” Baram said.
But, he warned, “Hezbollah continues to consolidate power in southern Lebanon, contrary to the UN resolution, and is building infrastructure of terrorism and rockets in the villages right here opposite us, and intends to try to threaten us with offensive forces as well. Hezbollah must understand: We will not allow it to realize its plans and destructive ambitions and those of its patrons in Iran.”
On Wednesday afternoon, a small drone infiltrated into northern Israel from Lebanon and flew over the town of Shlomi in the Western Galilee before it crossed back into Lebanon.
The IDF said that the drone, which was observing Israeli troop movements in the area, was under surveillance the entire time that it was in Israel. IAF jets were also scrambled to the area and followed the drone’s flight path.
Last week, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that the group has missiles that could “change the face of the region.”
In a speech marking Quds Day, he denied that the group has facilities to build precision missiles in Lebanon, saying that if it had such facilities, he would declare it openly, “because we have a right to defend ourselves, and the forces of the resistance have a right to have rockets and missiles.”
Nasrallah also warned that a war between the United States and Iran “would mean the whole region will be set ablaze. All US forces and interests in the region will be exterminated, and those who conspired [with them] will pay the price: first Israel, then al-Saud.”
In April, Nasrallah said that while Israel boasts about its missile defense system, it cannot defend the country’s citizens against the threat posed by the group’s rocket arsenal.
Since the end of the last war, hostilities between the two foes have been limited to occasional firing across the border and airstrikes by Israel against Hezbollah and Iranian positions and military equipment in Syria, where the group continues to fight in support of President Bashar Assad.
But due to its fighting in Syria, the group has grown significantly in terms of technological advances along with battlefield experience. It is considered Israel’s most dangerous enemy and has morphed from a guerrilla group to an army with a set hierarchy and procedures.
With the help of Iran, it has rebuilt its arsenal since 2006 and has hundreds of thousands of short-range rockets and several thousand more missiles that can reach deeper into Israel’s home front.
In addition to its massive arsenal, Hezbollah also has the ability to mobilize close to 30,000 battle-hardened fighters, some of whom are expected to try to infiltrate into Israeli communities on the border to kill or kidnap civilians and soldiers.
In December, Israel launched Operation Northern Shield to discover and destroy tunnels dug by the group into northern Israel. The IDF declared the end of the operation in mid-January after finding six cross-border tunnels, saying that it had “deprived Hezbollah of the unique offensive abilities it had built for years as part of its planned attack on Israeli territory,” and strengthened security along the northern border.
The Israeli military has repeatedly warned that the Lebanese government is responsible for the digging of the tunnels, which the IDF says were part of a Hezbollah plan to attack communities in northern Israel.