In recent years, the Lebanese Hezbollah militia has amassed a huge arsenal of missiles and rockets from surface to surface. With Iran’s help, the group continually improves the accuracy and scope of this arsenal so that it can threaten Israel in any future war.
The Israelis will undoubtedly try to remove this reserve if another war breaks out. However, they may find this an immense challenge for numerous reasons.
On June 21, Hezbollah released a propaganda video claiming that it could attack several major cities in Israel with precision-guided missiles. The clip showed coordinates of Israeli targets with the audio accompanying the group’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, threatening Israel.
“Today, not only can we hit the city of Tel Aviv, but also, God willing, and with his help, we can hit very precise targets inside Tel Aviv,” Nasrallah was heard to say in the video.
The Hezbollah leader’s claims are not simply hyperbolic. Since the last major confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah, a 34-day conflict in the summer of 2006 known as the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah has accumulated a large stock of shells that could cause serious damage to Israel if they are not quickly neutralized.
Nasrallah’s boasting about the accuracy of the group’s missiles also holds a lot of truth. With Iran’s help, Hezbollah has substantially improved both the range and precision of its missiles through the so-called Precision Project consisting of missile production plants in Lebanon and Syria.
By establishing some of these production plants in Lebanon, Iran calculates that it can help its Hezbollah representative to improve its missile arsenal with the knowledge that “Israeli attacks would be more complicated there due to the potential for escalation,” said a report on the Precision Project of The Washington Institute of Near East Policy Expert Group.
In the past seven years, Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes against Iran-related targets across Syria, some of which were undoubtedly related to the Project of Accuracy.
Despite this, Hezbollah places a much more capable and deadly missile arsenal today than it did in 2006.
Most estimates put Hezbollah’s current number of missiles and rockets at more than 100,000. In comparison, during the 2006 war, Hezbollah fired 4,000 short-range rockets into northern Israel, killing about 50 Israelis. In a future conflict, it might be able to fire many more missiles that are much more precise on targets across Israel, which could overwhelm its various anti-missile defense systems.
Hezbollah’s missiles and rockets also spread to several cities and towns in southern Lebanon. As a result, any swift Israeli operation to destroy them is likely to cause significant casualties among Lebanese civilians, leading to an international protest against Israel.
Missiles are also relatively easy to hide and hide. As Israeli analyst Uzi Rubin noted in a June report, such missiles “have the same combat effectiveness as combat aircraft, but they are easier to operate and less vulnerable since they do not depend on huge, immovable and objectives”.
Precision-guided missiles like those now in Hezbollah’s possession can also “paralyze the entire country’s civil and military infrastructure, thus paving the way for their defeat in war,” Rubin added.
In clear recognition of the importance and potential danger of Hezbollah’s missile arsenal, Israel has contemplated adapting its armed forces to deal with this threat more adequately.
Former Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called for the establishment of a surface-to-surface “missile corps” for the Israeli army to counter Hezbollah’s vast arsenal and also decrease Israel’s dependence on its highly sophisticated air force.
“There is no reason why we cannot attack every target with intensity and precision, even without jets,” Liberman said in 2018. “We must have an alternative to the air force.” We cannot afford to put all of our eggs in one basket, no matter how sophisticated that basket may be. ”
Another problem Israel may face in neutralizing Hezbollah’s arsenal will be the stupendous number of precisely guided bombs it will need to destroy these various missiles, which will undoubtedly prove essential in minimizing casualties among Lebanon’s civilian population.
There are reported fears that Israel currently does not have a sufficient arsenal of bombs that it would need to do so.
During the 2006 war, the United States accelerated the delivery of smart bombs to Israel. He denied that it was an “emergency replenishment” of Israeli reserves reminiscent of the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict, when Israel fell dangerously low on ammunition while fighting off a massive Egyptian-Syrian joint offensive and was quickly resupplied by a massive bridge American air.
The United States maintains a stockpile of ammunition in Israel, known as The War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition-Israel (WRSA-I), to ensure that the Jewish state has enough ammunition and bombs to sustain military operations against its adversaries.
However, a June report released by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) states that the WRSA-I arsenal is dangerously low and may not allow Israel to wage a war against Hezbollah and its Iranian patron. A concern that the authors highlight is the current shortage of precision-guided munitions (PGM) and joint direct attack ammunition (JDAM), the latter allowing Israel to convert its unguided bombs into guided bombs.
The JINSA report argues that “Israel will need abundant PGMs to compensate for limited defensive capabilities and will prevail in an expected great war with Tehran and its representatives, all while minimizing collateral damage to civilians.”
All this indicates that, in the event of another war in Lebanon, neutralizing Hezbollah’s rocket capabilities could become the single most important challenge facing the Israeli military in more than a generation.