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Israel prepares forces as conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon intensifies

WorldIsrael prepares forces as conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon intensifies

Local leaders in the area have been briefed “on the processes to accelerate readiness for continued fighting,” the IDF said in a statement. Additional storage facilities are being installed to enable a quick and broad mobilisation of IDF troops to the front line, the armed forces said.

A house destroyed by an Israeli air strike, in Hanine village, southern Lebanon. Photo: AP

Israel said it struck about 40 sites linked to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon on Wednesday, an escalation of hostilities after the militant group staged its deepest attack inside Israel the previous day.

Tensions between the two have been high since Israel invaded Gaza to try and eradicate Hamas – which like Hezbollah is an Iran-backed group considered a terrorist organisation by the US – but appear to have intensified since Israel and Iran began attacking each other directly earlier this month.

Hezbollah says ‘dozens’ of rockets fired at Israeli army HQ

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said on April 8 he was “working night and day to serve this resistance” after a deadly attack on Iran’s diplomatic compound in Syria a week earlier, which the Islamic Republic blamed on Israel.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been evacuated from settlements on both sides of the Lebanese border.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said pushing Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon is a national goal.

A United Nations Security Council resolution put in place after the two sides fought a war in 2006 called for Hezbollah forces to respect a no-go zone close to Israel’s border.

This will be achieved using diplomacy or military force, Netanyahu has said on several occasions.

An Israeli escalation of fighting with Hezbollah would be fraught with danger. The group is considered the most powerful militia in the Middle East, and is believed to possess some 150,000 missiles and rockets – some with a long enough range to reach almost anywhere in Israel – according to a senior Israeli official.

Israel has been targeted by about 17,000 rockets, missiles and artillery shells since October 7 – the date Hamas militants invaded the country and killed about 1,200 people – with some two thirds making it across the border.

About 3,000 were fired from Lebanon and the rest from Gaza, with a total of 27 fatalities. Around 350 people have been killed by Israeli strikes on Lebanon, most of them Hezbollah fighters.

If a fully fledged war breaks out in the north, Israel estimates a baseline scenario of as many as 5,000 missiles a day will be fired from Lebanon, on top of several hundred more by other Iranian proxies in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, said the Israeli official, who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive information.

The sheer volume of rockets could test Israel’s much vaunted air defence systems to breaking point, increasing the number of casualties and disrupting daily life.

Hezbollah is likely to try and hit infrastructure facilities like power plants and water pipes, as well as seaports, airports and communication sites, the official said.

The military effort would come on top of on Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza, where the IDF is preparing a potential ground invasion of Rafah, the southern city where more than 1 million civilians have taken refuge from the months of bombardments further north.

Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from Lebanon on April 12. Photo: Reuters

At least 34,305 Palestinians have been killed in the campaign so far, according to Hamas-run health authorities.

Israel has been preparing for a new war with Hezbollah for over 15 years, setting up a National Emergency Authority to coordinate government ministries, local authorities and other agencies to prepare for a surprise attack.

The blueprint has become known as “the compass” – a classified document that lays out Hezbollah’s capabilities and the maximum damage the group could cause.

The plan dictates the amount of emergency stocks Israel will buy to prepare for war and potential evacuations from affected territories.

These were topped up by about 2 billion shekels (US$530 million) in five different categories after October 7, including energy, medical supplies and raw material for the food industry.

Officials have studied Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for ideas, noting how Moscow’s forces looked to dismantle energy infrastructure and impose blackouts to assert its dominance.

A damaged community centre in the village of Arab al-Aramshe, in northern Israel, after Hezbollah launched missiles and drones. Photo: Reuters

Israeli Energy Minister Eli Cohen recently pledged that no one will be in the dark for an extended length of time in a Hezbollah war scenario. “We have established an unprecedented set of backups which allows us to route electricity in a short time to any affected area,” he said.

Every government ministry has been roped into preparations for war. Israel’s train company will use diesel-run locomotives to replace electric ones. Ramon airport in Israel’s south will be able to partially take over from Ben Gurion International hub, though whether international airlines will keep flying to Israel is another question.

Supermarkets that install generators to enable the use of credit cards during power shortages will be dubbed “iron markets” and published on a specialised government web page. The same goes for “Iron gas stations”.

Many Israelis are not waiting for the authorities to tell them what to do. Before Iran’s attack on Israel earlier this month, grocery chains reported a huge surge in food sales, and delivery service Wolt reported a spike in orders from supermarkets and convenience stores.

“We are also experiencing a renewed wave of demand for emergency products,” said Amit Shabtai, the trade and import manager of the Kravitz office supply and electronic products chain.

“It started in October with the outbreak of the war, faded toward the end of December, but there is once again an increase in the sales of products such as portable power and energy stations, folding solar panels, docking stations, flashlights, batteries and transistors,” she told the Globes newspaper this month.

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