JERUSALEM—In the next war with Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based militia will likely attempt sending large ground forces across the border to seize villages inside Israel, according to Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, the outgoing head of Israel’s Military Intelligence research division.
In an interview with the newspaper Israel Hayom, Brun said that Hezbollah would also likely carry out pinpoint terrorist attacks on cities in northern Israel, like Nahariya, a seaside city of 50,000 population six miles south of the border.
However, Hezollah’s main effort will be the firing of 1,000 rockets a day into Israel, more than twice the average fired during the month-long Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006. Brun said the rockets would target strategic facilities. The militia’s arsenal is believed to contain well over 100,000 rockets. Unlike the 2006 conflict, when almost all the 4,000 Hezbollah rockets fired were of short range and endangered mainly border areas, Hezbollah now has thousands of rockets that are capable of hitting almost anywhere in Israel, said Brun.
Hezbollah was armed and trained by Iran, which sees its rocket arsenal as a major deterrent aimed at forestalling an Israeli air strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Brun did not say when a clash with Hezbollah is likely to happen but he predicted that the Middle East as a whole will simmer in 2015. "We are expecting the mess in the Middle East to continue," he said.
Although the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad announced that it has rid itself of all its chemical weapons, he said, it in fact continues to use them in the current civil war. These agents are not as deadly as sarin or VX, said Brun, but can nevertheless be lethal. "They neutralize in low doses and kill in high doses. Assad used chlorine gas, for example."
The intelligence officer said that terrorist organizations fighting the Damascus regime may eventually get their hands on chemical weapons. "They may not pose a strategic threat to the (Israeli) home front but they are certainly a threat to the military."
As for the Palestinians, Brun said that the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, does not support terrorism. "He does not doublespeak, and he does not incite."
Terror strikes, such as the ones that took place last week in Paris, will continue against the West, including Israeli and Jewish targets. "This is a permanent phenomenon that needs to be confronted."
Writing in the newspaper Haaretz, analyst Ari Shavit likewise predicts a stormy year ahead. Referring to the recent, relatively calm, years Israel has enjoyed, he said 2015 will be a year of destabilization, with the West Bank likely erupting in violence and Gaza as well. "Fasten your seat belts – Israel, with eyes wide open, is flying into a storm."
The efforts by the Palestinian Authority to gain international recognition as an independent state, bypassing negotiations with Israel, will draw an Israeli economic and diplomatic response that will escalate the situation, Shavit predicted. "If there is an escalation in the coming year (on the Palestinian front)," he warned, "it’s highly likely to be a dual-front (West Bank and Gaza) escalation."
Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Israel’s most highly decorated soldier, dropped out of politics and the public eye four years ago. In a rare interview last week in Haaretz, he spoke morosely of Israel’s political situation, particularly the proliferation of settlements in the West Bank. Asked if he would respond positively if there was a call to him to lead a political party again, he indicated that he would. "I am realistic enough to know that a situation could emerge, heaven forbid, in which people will turn to me and I will be compelled to consider it. And because I know what that type of situation would be, I say let’s hope we don’t get there."