Is Hezbollah Planning a Surprise Attack on Israel?

Why does an IDF officer believe that Hezbollah is preparing for war with Israel, and what are Sudanese migrants doing on the Lebanon border?

Terrorist with gun
Tense border (Archive photo: Tprzem/Pixabay)

In recent weeks there is more action on the northern front. Tuesday evening, IDF forces captured two suspects shortly after they crossed into Israel from Lebanon. This followed some drama, with artillery forces firing flares into the night’s sky and military aircraft buzzing overhead.

As it turned out, the infiltrators were Sudanese nationals, marking the second incident of this kind in May. Previously, the IDF nabbed five men from Sudan as they tried to enter Israeli territory from Lebanon.

The official version is that these were migrants seeking to find work in Israel. But trying to come in through the Lebanon war seems like an odd choice. After all, this is a heavily guarded area where failure is almost guaranteed. But there could be a more sinister motive.

Hezbollah is known for using seemingly innocent civilians to test Israel’s defenses. And the group appears to be doing more of this lately. This week, elite IDF troops patrolling the border area shot and wounded an unarmed infiltrator inside Israel. Arab reports said the man was a Syrian shepherd.

Moreover, Hezbollah is also using the same tactic on the Golan. IDF troops have been spotting civilians heading into border enclaves more frequently in recent months. They often report back to Syrian soldiers after returning. Israel has already warned the Syrian army to stop cooperating with Hezbollah.

In April, Hezbollah executed a more daring operation, apparently in response to an IDF strike on group members. Several cells reached the border and cut holes through the fence at three different locations before disappearing into the darkness. This was a warning to Israel, but also a way to gauge the IDF’s response time.

Hezbollah Refocusing on Israel

So what is Hezbollah up to? Top IDF commanders and other experts say that the group is not interested in war. After all, the organization must deal with domestic trouble, and with dwindling financial support from Iran. But some observers offer other, more troubling, assessments.

An IDF officer closely familiar with the northern sector says that the reassuring views are off. Hezbollah is more active in the border area because the group is preparing for war with Israel, he told The Jerusalem Post. “They want war,” he said.

The group’s fighters were absent from the border zone for years, but are increasingly coming back, the unnamed officer said. They gained valuable military experience in Syria and are now refocusing on Israel, he added. He also noted that Hezbollah is more closely cooperating with the Lebanese Army.

Another warning comes from IDF Colonel Moshe Elad, a veteran defense official. Hezbollah is indeed facing a difficult situation at home, and is more dangerous because of it, Elad recently wrote. The group could end up firing missiles at Israel to divert attention away from the domestic crisis, he cautioned.

Meanwhile, former ambassador to Egypt Yitzhak Levanon says that the recent crises are making Hezbollah stronger. The career diplomat, who was born in Lebanon and is closely familiar with it, says that the group set up impressive medical facilities to deal with the Corona outbreak. Hezbollah did this by exploiting its control of the Health Ministry.

In case of war with Israel, Hezbollah now has large medical teams in place to treat the wounded, Levanon noted.

Taken as a whole, Hezbollah’s moves on different fronts suggest that it’s boosting its readiness for a military conflict. As the IDF continues to pound Hezbollah and Iranian targets in Syria, retaliation becomes likelier. Israel’s foes have shown restraint so far, but this self-control could be the prelude to a surprising military blow.