Is Israel Planning to Strike Hezbollah Missile Project?

IDF strike on Hezbollah missile project in Lebanon could be imminent, says prominent journalist; defense minister orders army to be ready for major conflict.

Israel Air Force jets
Will IDF strike Hezbollah missile project? (Archive photo: IDF/Creative Commons)

The IDF could strike the Hezbollah missile project as early as this year, a prominent military affairs journalist says. Israel may be forced to attack due to the progress of precision rocket production at Lebanese factories, Alex Fishman reported.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has already ordered the army to be prepared for an all-out war in Lebanon, the report said. The large-scale IDF exercise last month, the biggest this year, was a dress rehearsal for such conflict.

Another option raised by Israeli defense officials is an improved nuclear deal with Iran that would also halt the Hezbollah missile project. Former IDF General Giora Eiland urged an aggressive Israeli-US campaign to condition financial aid to Lebanon on terminating the production of precision weapons.

Notably, in late September Israel exposed the locations of several Beirut missile factories. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned in his UN speech that such sites are “ticking time bombs.”

Hezbollah warning to Israel

Earlier this year, Hezbollah posted a video clip threatening to hit targets deep in Israel with precise missiles. The campaign’s timing was not coincidental, as Israel was monitoring the group’s missile program with growing concern.

Hezbollah feared that the IDF planned to bomb missile factories in Lebanon, intelligence blog IntelliTimes wrote. The menacing video aimed to convince Israel that it’s too late to strike as the precision project is complete.

Various analysts estimated at the time that Hezbollah was bluffing and did not yet achieve precision capabilities. However, this could be changing. By now, the group’s progress is apparently forcing Israel to seriously consider a preemptive strike to neutralize the grave threat.

Missiles to target IDF airbases

Missile expert Uzi Rubin says that Israel wants to demolish the Hezbollah missile project because of its destructive strategic potential. Precision-guided missiles will turn the group into the equivalent of a state-run military with air force capabilities, he wrote.

Rubin warned that if Hezbollah acquires precision missiles, it will use them at the start of a future war to devastate Israeli airbases. Israel’s air defenses will shoot down most of the incoming missiles but some will get through, he said.

Such missile offensive could severely hinder the IDF’s war efforts and ability to strike enemy targets. This scenario creates further motivation for Israel to take action against the precision project at an early stage.

Israel is running out of time to decide about a preemptive strike, political analyst Ben Caspit wrote this year. Precision-guided missiles will erode the IDF’s strategic edge and mark the crossing of a red line, he warned.  

Ideal time for a strike?

With the Hezbollah missile project very high on Israel’s list of priorities, the group’s concerns about a potential IDF strike seem well-founded. Moreover, Hezbollah is in a tight spot domestically, as Lebanon struggles with an ongoing economic and political crisis.

The group’s Iranian patrons also face acute financial problems, and have not yet recovered from the assassination of top military commander Qasem Soleimani.

And another factor to consider: With President Donald Trump soon leaving the White House, the coming months could be the ideal time for an Israeli strike. Launching a major operation would also be easier given Israel’s broad coalition government.

So will Israel attack soon? The IDF is ready to strike, but the final decision remains in the hands of Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Gantz.