On August 13, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened to bomb Israel’s Dimona nuclear research facility in the event of war between Israel and Hezbollah. Nasrallah made the threat via video linkup from an undisclosed hidden location while addressing a crowd of Shia supporters in the southern Lebanese village of Khiam. For all of his bravado, Nasrallah still finds it necessary to hide, and scurry from location to location for fear of being targeted by Israel.
This isn’t the first time that the terrorist leader issued such a threat. In February, he issued similar sinister pronouncements during a speech commemorating the 9th anniversary of the liquidation of Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah’s chief special operations commander, who was eliminated in 2008 in a joint Mossad-CIA operation.
Nasrallah frequently issues threats to bomb civilian targets and other critical infrastructure in Israel. These threats are generally for internal public consumption but they are also directed at Israel as a form of psychological warfare. Nasrallah’s threats to target an ammonia storage plant in Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, likely factored into the decision by Israeli authorities to relocate the facility to a safer location further south, away from densely populated areas.
Despite Nasrallah’s bluster, Israel takes the terrorist leader’s threats seriously. Like Hamas, ISIS and other terrorist groups, Hezbollah does not feel constrained by the laws of war. That means that in any future engagement with Israel, Hezbollah will violate the legal principles of “Distinction” and “Shielding” in that it will fire its guided and unguided missiles and rockets at Israel in indiscriminate fashion and will also deliberately utilize Lebanon’s civilian population as cover in an effort to shield itself from retaliation.
These nefarious tactics were employed by Hezbollah in 2006 and by Hamas in 2009, 2012 and 2014, without legal consequence to either organization. For example, during the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah fired rockets from the rooftop of a building housing a number of civilians in the southern Lebanese village of Qana. That rocket fire invariably drew Israeli counter fire, resulting in the deaths of some 60 civilians and an unknown number of terrorists. International outcry prompted a temporary halt of Israeli airstrikes which naturally benefitted Hezbollah. During Operation Protective Edge, Hamas utilized the basement of Al-Shifa hospital as a command and control center. Israel could have cut off the head of the snake with a couple of 1-ton bombs but that would have invariably led to enormous collateral damage – perhaps hundreds of civilian dead. Hamas was well aware of Israel’s weakness in this regard and its leadership continued to prosecute the war from Al-Shifa hospital, immune from aerial attack.
By contrast, despite the fact that Israel went above and beyond the requirements of international humanitarian law, often at risk to its own soldiers, the Jewish State was forced to contend with a plethora of legal complaints – including legal filings at the International Criminal Court – as a result of defensive actions undertaken by its armed forces. Western armies are often constrained by the laws of war and this is particularly true in the context of asymmetrical warfare where terrorist groups, operating under an immoral code, often utilize these known Western limitations to their advantage.
Nevertheless, in light of Hezbollah’s military build-up, its formidable rocket arsenal, genocidal threats and cynical exploitation of the civilian population, Israel may be compelled to relax the laws of war or at least argue that it is confronting a unique situation unparalleled in modern warfare, which dictates a reassessment of the doctrine of proportionality. That doctrine permits military action only if the military benefit derived from that specific action outweighs the collateral damage that would result therefrom.
Hezbollah possesses missiles that are within reach of all of Israel’s major population centers. The M-600/Fateh-110 for example, has a range of 300 km and can carry a conventional payload of between 500-650 kg. The missile is relatively accurate and has a 50-50 chance of landing within 100 meters of its intended target. Hezbollah is said to possess hundreds of these missiles, which can be fired from either fixed positions or from mobile platforms. Hezbollah is also said to possess the ability to manufacture surface -to-surface missiles, and with Iran’s assistance has constructed missile-building factories in fortified facilities 50 meters beneath the ground. Hezbollah is believed to possess at least two such factories in Lebanon.
Moreover, Hezbollah has constructed several missile launching facilities in and around the Syrian province of Qusair. Hezbollah took control of the region in 2013 and will likely use the area, which it treats as its own turf, as a platform to strike at Israel in any future conflict. Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal is believed to be 15 times greater than it was in 2006, dwarfing the collective inventories of all NATO countries, save for the United States.
The combination of such a lethal arsenal, cynically deployed amidst Lebanese civilian infrastructure, for use against Israeli civilian infrastructure, means that in the next war, Israel must respond with massive and overwhelming force. Israel’s terror-sponsoring enemies, chiefly Syria and Iran, should be on notice that the target bank will not be limited to Lebanon, and the world should be on notice that Hezbollah, and not Israel will bear full responsibility for all civilian casualties that ensue. The days where Israel is forced to fight with one hand tied behind its back due to the pernicious nature of its genocidal enemies, and overzealous application of the rules of war exclusively to one side but not the other, are over.
Leave a Reply