Israel has been preparing for the possibility of a Hezbollah chemical weapons attack during wartime. While assessing the threat level is difficult given the secrecy surrounding the issue, defense officials believe that the danger exists.
The IDF is already training forces to deal with a potential non-conventional attack from Lebanon. The army’s elite combat engineering unit, Yahalom, now specializes in detecting and neutralizing chemical and biological weapons, N12 News reports.
Among other things, the unit is mobilized to examine whether rockets that explode inside Israel contain toxic materials, the report said.
Yahalom also specializes in underground warfare and exposing tunnels, another route that may be used by Hezbollah to spread toxins in Israeli territory. Notably, forces in the unit undergo commando training to further expand their ability to respond to urgent threats.
Last year, a major war drill tested the IDF’s response to a Hezbollah assault that uses chemical substances in large areas to disable soldiers and civilians. This scenario appears to be based on unspecified intelligence information that likely remains classified due to its sensitivity.
Chemical weapons in Syria
Another facet of the threat originates in Syria. The Syrians still engage in chemical weapons research and have tried to restart their non-conventional arms program.
Israeli fighter jets bombed Syrian chemical weapons facilities in 2021 and 2020, the Washington Post and Ynet reported. One of the strikes killed a senior officer and an engineer working in a secret lab, the reports said.
Israeli officials have warned that Damascus is trying to produce deadly nerve gas and was purchasing large quantities of chemical substances. Intelligence sources say that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad tasked a highly secretive unit, Branch 450, with the project.
Given the regime’s close ties with Hezbollah, Syria may agree to supply the group with chemical weapons. Israel’s intelligence arms will likely spot signs of mass production and large storage depots, but detecting the transfer of smaller quantities to Hezbollah could be harder.
Hezbollah itself has been mum about any plans for non-conventional warfare. However, the group’s leaders have threatened Israel with “surprises” that will only be revealed in the next war.
Notably, Israel has broader safeguards in place to counter chemical and biological weapons. These include intelligence units tracking non-conventional threats, and a secret research facility dedicated to developing scientific defenses against attacks.