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Senior Israeli officials have indicated that the Jewish state is gearing up for a major “war with Lebanon,” according to sources close to the Israeli government.
The Israeli military has reportedly deployed missile defense systems to the northern part of the country, which sits near Lebanon, and has ordered all civilian aircraft to evacuate Haifa airport, the Jewish state’s northernmost air hub.
Senior Israeli officials have warned of an impending conflict in closed-door meetings in Washington, D.C., sources said.
The “world needs to be prepared for the next war with Lebanon,” a senior military adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said during a private meeting with representatives of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a D.C. think-tank.
“All of Lebanon is now South Lebanon,” the official reportedly said, referring to Israel’s ongoing attempts to prevent the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah from replenishing its weapons cache.
Jonathan Schanzer, FDD's vice president of research, recalled being "struck by the blunt nature of this senior officials' comments."
"He seemed to be saying this is a matter of when not if," Schanzer told the Free Beacon. "If you're looking at the big picture, the Israelis continue to move chess pieces to the North. Something is happening on the Lebanese front."
The Israeli official’s remarks suggest Israel is now willing to penetrate deep inside Lebanese territory in order to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring sophisticated weaponry.
Israel offered similar warnings during a recent meeting with officials from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which is tasked with maintaining peace between Israel and Lebanon, according to reports.
“Israel told U.N. peacekeeping forces in South Lebanon to ‘take precautions’ amid growing fears of a regional conflict,” the Lebanese news site NOW reported over the weekend.
“There are dangers of an Israeli strike against Lebanon,” Lebanese parliamentarian Jean Ogassapian was quoted as saying. “There is information that Israel told UNIFIL to take precautions.”
Israel conducted a surprise military operation inside Syria late last month to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining sophisticated Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles, according to reports.
Israel then bombed a Hezbollah-run transmission tower several days later, according to the Times of Israel. Hezbollah later denied the attack had taken place.
Israeli officials have increasingly made clear that its military is willing to conduct similar operations in the future in order to prevent heavy weapons from reaching terrorist forces in Lebanon.
That declaration has led to concerns Hezbollah could begin to launch retaliatory attacks along Israel’s populous northern border.
There are several indications Israel is preparing to ward off an attack.
Israel has deployed a third Iron Dome missile defense system to the north in recent days. Additionally, Israel stepped up its military surveillance in Lebanon, reportedly deploying drones deep in Lebanese airspace.
“What they’re doing, especially with the Iron Dome, is contingency preparation,” said Jeffrey White, a defense fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “I don’t think they have a plan of releasing a general attack … but they have to be ready.”
Israel has “sent out enough fertile warnings” that it is prepared “to act as necessary to stop any flow of weapons to Hezbollah,” White said.
As Hezbollah works to restock its arms, Israel “must be ready to act against specific shipments and retaliation on some scale,” White explained. “They also have to be ready to act if there’s a rapid escalation.”
A spokesperson in the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not respond to a Free Beacon request for comment.