Perspectives - February 19, 2021

Israel Conducts Two Largescale Military Exercises Simulating War with Hezbollah

Israel completed two largescale military exercises in one week, simulating conflict with Hezbollah. The first, dubbed Lightning Storm, was a large-scale exercise along the northern border simulating a war in Lebanon, amid lingering tensions with the Hezbollah terror group.

The drill tested the Northern Command’s ability to rapidly respond to outbreaks of violence on the border, the military said. It simulated cooperation between different units near the Lebanese border. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that “part of the exercise featured the application of the lessons learned from the recent operational events on the Lebanese border; the battle procedures and operational plans were sharpened against the backdrop of possible escalation; and the cooperation between intelligence collection, air support, intelligence and fire systems was practiced.” The drill also tested the IDF’s new system to coordinate attacks, known as “Ring of Fire,” the military said.

The second exercise, Galilee Rose, was a surprise simulation of an overwhelming aerial response to Hezbollah downing an Israeli jet. The drill included mock strikes on some 3,000 targets in one day, in a clear threat to the Lebanese group.

A senior air force official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the level of intensity shown in the exercise was unprecedented. The drill simulated the bombing of some 3,000 targets over the course of 24 hours, whereas in the more than month-long 2006 Second Lebanon War, roughly 5,000 targets were struck in total. The exercise also simulated Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel, including the firing of cruise missiles and other advanced munitions, as well as standard, albeit massive rocket launches at both military and civilian targets in the Jewish state, the senior air force officer told reporters.

Nasrallah Responds to Israel’s Military Intelligence Annual Estimate

Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech on Tuesday, on the anniversary to commemorate its fallen leaders Ragheb Harb, Abbas al-Mousaoui, and Imad Mughniyeh. Nasrallah addressed the IDF’s Military Intelligence Branch annual estimate, released last week, which indicated that the IDF expected the group to carry out prolonged attacks – known as “Battle Days” – in the coming year to restore deterrence with Israel. Nasrallah, however, seemed to hint at his group’s disinterest in such military escalation, declaring that Israel would be putting itself at great risk from the group’s arsenal if it engaged in such clashes.

The Hezbollah chief also threatened that, in any escalation, Israel’s civilians and cities would not be granted immunity. Nasrallah declared that there were no real Israeli civilians, essentially dubbing all of Israeli society a pool of military reserves, who would be targetable in a future conflict.

Hezbollah Releases Video Threatening to Strike Military Targets in Israeli Cities

Following a speech by Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, in which he vowed to strike Israeli cities, the group’s Military Media released a video of military targets inside Israeli civilian population centers, which it threatened to target in a future conflict.

Relatedly, a Houthi official congratulated Hezbollah on what he dubbed a “successful intelligence operation inside occupied Palestine” which allowed it to identify these military targets. However, contrary to the official’s claims – and the impression of military sophistication that the video attempted to give off – the video’s targets and locations were all available on public internet sources, like Wikipedia or Google Maps.

Lebanese Port Blast Investigator Removed

Judge Fadi Sawwan, the prosecutor investigating last year’s massive blast at Beirut port, was formally notified Friday by Lebanon’s highest court that he would no longer lead an inquiry into last year’s incident. The move was met with criticism from the families of the victims of the explosion, fearing that powerful forces will never be held accountable. The Court of Cassation has now called for a new investigator to be appointed. Sawwan previously accused and summoned for questioning Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister and three former ministers on suspicion of negligence. These moves likely contributed to the political pressure to remove him from the case.