Hezbollah presents a unique threat to the IDF (Zahal): a terror group on our border with the capabilities of a modern army.  

In the early morning on this Lebanon border base, IDF (Zahal) soldiers wrapped in fleece jackets are already making their ways to breakfast, to their posts, to begin shifts, to end them. They enter and exit buildings fortified by concrete blocks from all sides. As they take their places and begin their days, a blinking light at the end of a long antenna, clearly visible on the other side of the border, reminds them that a stone’s throw away, Hezbollah operatives are doing the same.

Hezbollah: Get to know our most complicated adversary

A view from the Lebanon-Israel border

For the last decade, the border has been quiet – a quiet that, in the past, has proven deceptive. In July 2006, during a period of relative calm, Hezbollah terrorists ended this lull by ambushing and kidnapping IDF (Zahal) soldiers on the border, starting the Second Lebanon War. Over the course of the month-long war, Hezbollah fired 3,978 missiles at Israel with the intent of killing as many civilians as possible. Entire Israeli communities were evacuated, and civilians spent hours in air raid shelters.

Knowing how quickly a Hezbollah strike can escalate into a massive and destructive war, the IDF (Zahal) constantly prepares to prevent and respond to attacks from the most complicated terror group on our northern border.  

A different kind of threat

“Hezbollah is a very different enemy from the ones I encountered in Judea and Samaria,” says Lt. Y, the Deputy Intelligence Officer of the regional brigade stationed on the border. His last posting was as the intelligence officer of a battalion based in the Judea and Samaria region, giving him insight into the differences between the threats in each region.

“There, [in Judea and Samaria,] there were many more terror attacks, but on a much lower level. It was more unpredictable with ‘lone wolf terror’ – people would wake up and decide to stab someone.” On the Lebanon border, the terror is more organized, and the stakes are much higher. “Here, it’s ‘where are they going to fire an anti-tank missile from?’ You need to check 500 meters ahead.”

Hezbollah: Get to know our most complicated adversary

Hezbollah paramilitary parade in Beirut (AFP)

Hezbollah, unlike most other terror groups on our borders, has the intelligence and weapons capabilities of an established army. Their organization is 30,000 strong, with about 15,000 active fighters. They boast an arsenal of over 100,000 long- and short-range rockets – a clear violation of Resolution 1701. “The only country that holds by [Resolution 1701] is Israel, though it was passed by the UN,” says a senior IDF (Zahal) official. “When you let so many weapons systems get into Lebanon, you increase the probability of a war.”  

Losses in Syria

Hezbollah’s current priority is the war in Syria. They fight alongside the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, along with Iran’s Quds Force. Their heavy involvement in the conflict has resulted in many casualties; according to a senior IDF (Zahal) official, 1,700 members of Hezbollah have been killed in the fighting since 2011. “That’s more than twice the number they lost in the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Another 6,000 Hezbollah fighters were injured in clashes.”

Committed to terror

What Hezbollah is losing in manpower, they’re making up for in experience. “The downside of them fighting in Syria is that they are learning,” says the senior IDF (Zahal) official. “Experience is something that is important in the battlefield, of course, and they are gaining some experience.”

“Although Hezbollah is overstretched in fighting in Syria, they constantly build forces against Israel,” says the senior official. “We didn’t see them stop for even one day.” Their losses may be heavy and their experience may not be relevant in fighting an established military like the IDF (Zahal). This hasn’t kept them from threatening Israel and its civilians on a regular basis.

First lines of defense

Hezbollah: Get to know our most complicated adversary

The IDF (Zahal)’s Target Intelligence Unit in training

Even though Hezbollah continues to threaten Israel, the IDF (Zahal) works to ensure that we stay a step ahead of the terror group. Just as they consistently collect information to prepare for attacks, we collect information to defend ourselves. Conscripted and reserves battalions are always at the ready in case a situation on the border escalates. Control Room Soldiers monitor the feeds coming in from dozens of cameras in real time, keeping tabs on known Hezbollah operatives, bases, and control centers.  

The Combat Intelligence Corps’ Target Intelligence Unit is permanently stationed on the Lebanon border, always watching the other side. After completing eight months of advanced training, the soldiers master the art of getting to their positions, remaining hidden, collecting intelligence, and getting out in silence. Even in the freezing, rocky conditions of  northern Israel, they can stay in position for long stretches of time. The combination of advanced technology and quality manpower means that no suspicious figure goes unnoticed, and that no threat goes undetected.