Alwaght- 40 years ago, when Lebanese Hezbollah’s was founded in the face of Israeli occupation, many believed that the movement’s power will be limited to carrying out partisan attacks, and its toehold will be limited, at best, to southern Lebanon. But that fledgling offspring has now become a powerful and organized army defining its security and defense strategies well beyond national borders.
On the eve of the 23rd anniversary of the liberation of Lebanon from the Israeli occupation, Hezbollah once again showed off its military might to its enemies, and 200 of its members held military exercises with live ammunition on Sunday in one of its camps in southern Lebanon between Melita and Armata villages. They displayed their missiles and military vehicles in the maneuvers, too. Specialized units from various military ranks were also present.
In the drills, codenamed “We Will Cross”, Hezbollah used a set of heavy and light arms, missile launchers, armored vehicles equipped with heavy machine guns and air defenses, anti-armor rockets, and man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). Meanwhile, display of an unknown weapon that appeared to be a drone killer captivated the attention.
Mohammad Afif, head of Hezbollah’s press bureau, stated that “the nature, place and time of this military activity are known and it is conducted in front of eyes of reporters and media on the occasion of the celebration of resistance and liberation. He further said that it is a showcase of the real capabilities of Hezbollah and is aimed at sending a message to the Israeli regime about readiness to defend Lebanon and ward off its aggression. It is noteworthy that the movement did not limit the media coverage of the military exercises to its affiliated media, rather more than 600 domestic and foreign media outlets were invited for coverage.
Asserting that the resistance power is increasing, head of Hezbollah’s Administrative Council Sayyed Hashem Safieddine said: “Those who rely on international and world community’s decisions will lose, and those who retake Palestine and protect the wealth [of the country] hold the power.”
He maintained that in these military drills, Hezbollah displayed the full and constant readiness to counter any aggression and establishment of deterrence equations that protect Lebanon.
“Today’s resistance is a broad force and a complete axis, whose extent starts from Iran to Gaza, the West Bank, inside the occupied territories and Lebanon, and will develop day by day, and the resistance that has achieved great victories will never grow exhausted. If the enemy thinks of broadening the range of its attacks, the resistance is ready to rain it with missiles in such a way that it cannot respond. If the enemy commits stupidity in order to break the rules of the game, it will see the performance and efficiency of the pinpoint missiles. The enemy should know what we mean,” he continued.
In the drills, all the targets bore Israeli signs, and analysts suggest that this reminds of the movement’s victory over the occupiers not long ago on the strength of the ‘army, people, resistance equation’ that marked a golden page in Lebanon’s history.
It is obvious to all that the recent Hezbollah military drills showed off part of the movement’s power to the Israelis and told them to review their policies towards Lebanon. Israelis who in recent years have been expressing their concerns about growing Hezbollah power just next door received the message sooner than expected.
Pointing to their leaders’ concerns about weapons of Hezbollah, the Israeli media admitted that the drills carried an important message to Tel Aviv. The weapons not shown were pinpoint missiles and “this is our problem” that is grabbing the calm from the eyes of Israeli security and military institutions.
“Hezbollah primarily wants to threaten and also convey a message. In the extraordinary maneuvers in southern Lebanon, weapons and armored vehicles were used, as well as various types of special suicide drones. In these maneuvers, Hezbollah simulated an attack on Israel and the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers, as well as confronting Israel’s invasion, which is considered a kind of massive confrontation or war. These exercises are actually a message to Israel that Hezbollah is actually an organized army with special forces and weapons,” Israeli broadcaster Channel 13 reported.
Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced their worries about high accuracy missiles Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah admitted the movement has hundreds of them. They know that in case of a future war, Hezbollah will use them to strike their sensitive facilities and infrastructures. They actually were expecting their exhibition in the drills, but the movement seems currently has no plans to unveil this strategic weapon as the Israelis may start working on developing systems for its interception. Therefore, it keeps this weapon secret to surprise the Israelis in the time of need.
Though the drills were staged to celebrate liberation of Lebanese territories from Israeli occupation, since it came just a week after Gaza confrontation, it carried a special message especially about the unity of the resistance factions. They also were a warning to the Israeli hardliners who last week performed the provocative ‘flag march’ in Al-Quds (Jerusalem).
In recent months, Hezbollah leaders have repeatedly warned against the Israeli adventures in the West Bank and Gaza, and even a few weeks ago, they allowed Hamas forces to fire rockets from southern Lebanon at the occupied territories, sending a warning to the enemy that the resistance is united and from now on, any action against one branch of the resistance will be met with a sharp response from other branches.
Hezbollah forced the Israeli occupation forces out of southern Lebanon when it was not comparable militarily to Tel Aviv, and also in the 33-day war in 2006 dealt fatal blows to them. Since then, they have not dared to fire even a single shot at Lebanon as they are, conspicuously, afraid of deterrence power Hezbollah has build over the past years.
Tel Aviv’s fear was crystal clear during tensions over Karish gas field, shared by Israeli regime and Lebanon. The Israelis walked back from their positions following serious warnings issued to them by Hezbollah head and consequently conceded to a deal with Beirut. Before reclaiming power, Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed he will scrap the deal upon taking the power, but 5 months after formation of his radical government, he has not taken any step against the US-brokered agreement. In recent weeks, the Israeli PM and other officials admitted they cannot fight on two fronts with Lebanon and Gaza simultaneously.
By conducting these war drills, Hezbollah signaled that the resistance is in its peak of power and is a protector of Lebanon’s territorial integrity and political and economic interests and any coveting of the Lebanese territories will draw strong Hezbollah response.
Hezbollah muscle-flexing comes as Israeli hardliners have these days stepped up their provocative actions, risking a new war in the occupied territories. Hezbollah, meanwhile, seeks to tell Netanyahu and his cabal that Palestinian groups are not alone. In recent days, Netanyahu repeated his rodomontade, saying that in case of new rocket launches from Gaza, Tel Aviv will respond resolutely. But display of Hezbollah’s capabilities in recent maneuvers poured the cold water on the Israeli leaders’ rhetoric.
Hezbollah’s new tactics and achievements
Certainly, many observers have had no precise information about Hezbollah’s military power and the number of its equipment and there were just speculations surrounding them, and all were waiting the movement to show off its new achievements, part of which were put to show during the drills. What was considerable was the large number of its armored vehicles, missile capabilities, and its anti-armor elite forces. Also, the GBP12 man-portable mine clearing system was displaced. This mine clearing system, all of whose accessories accommodated by a single box, can be carried like a backpack by ground forces. This minesweeper weighs 15 kilograms and after explosion can clear an area of 20 meters of length and 9 meters of width.
Remarkable in the drills was also Hezbollah’s diversity of tactics that simulated attacks on sensitive areas in the occupied territories and settlements. The scene of the exercises included a tall concrete wall like that Israelis constructed on border with Lebanon and bore slogans like “we will come” and “hard revenge” beside a mural of Al-Aqsa Mosque. Simulation of attack on Israeli settlements, the operation of capturing soldiers and military vehicles, and breaking into the occupied territories were part of the display of the individual skills of irresistible Hezbollah fighters.
Another important issue about these drills that was mentioned even by foreign journalists present in the south was that Hezbollah has shifted from defensive to offensive stage. An American journalist described Hezbollah’s infiltration drills as “unique.” A Dutch journalist said that he was surprised by what he saw and that world armies “should learn” these war tactics from Hezbollah forces.
Hezbollah also showed its armored units that are responsible for thwarting Israeli land encroachment on Lebanon, as well as its truck-mounted missile launchers that can unleash heavy fire to Israelis and challenge Iron Dome air defenses. So far, this air defense was Tel Aviv’s major hope to intercept resistance groups’ rockets, but penetration of Hezbollah and even Gaza rockets into the occupied territories is turning into a fundamental challenge to the Israelis.
According to the experts, by these military drills, Hezbollah assured people of its unwavering commitment to their protection 23 years after liberation of their lands, as it proved to the Israeli and American enemies that their bet on Lebanon’s home crisis to undermine the resistance has failed and none of economic and political challenges could block expansion of its deterrence and military power.