Everything you need to know about IDF’s intensive preparations for Israel-Hezbollah war.  

Israel vs. Hezbollah: IDF Prepares for War in Lebanon 1
Israel vs. Hezbollah: IDF prepares to fight (Archive: Yoav Pinus, IDF/Creative Commons)

The IDF has been preparing intensively for the past year for a war between Israel and Hezbollah. The army heavily publicized some of these efforts while keeping a low profile on other moves.

At times it seemed like Israel is holding a significant exercise almost every month. The ongoing drills are meant to test the full array of the IDF’s units, weapons and capabilities while simulating likely combat scenarios.

However, the constant action seems to serve another purpose: Lowering Hezbollah’s guard by regularly deploying troops near the Lebanon border and elsewhere. The group elevates its alert level for major IDF drills, but maintaining vigilance is harder over time. One day, it will no longer be an exercise.

A war between Israel and Hezbollah could erupt for several reasons. A deadly attack on IDF soldiers or civilians will provoke a strong Israeli response and may lead to a larger conflict. The army’s annual intelligence estimate warned that the Lebanese group is willing to take the risk and strike this year.

But there are other scenarios. As Israel increasingly adopts a preemptive war doctrine, the IDF may launch a surprise attack to neutralize Hezbollah’s key assets. Defense officials are alarmed by the group’s precision-missile program and moving closer to ordering a preventive strike to destroy the project.

On a strategic level, Israel may decide to crush or greatly weaken Hezbollah, which poses the most immediate threat to the country’s security. Former national security adviser Yaakov Amidror is already promoting a plan for a long war in Lebanon to devastate the group and eradicate its strongholds.

Earlier, military experts said that an aggressive maneuver by ground forces is the key to defeating Hezbollah.

Israel vs. Hezbollah war drills

Senior officers have stated that the IDF is ready for a few days of intensive battles. However, the scope and intensity of military exercises suggest that Israel prepares for weeks of fighting inside Lebanon. Moreover, the army expects to face extreme combat scenarios not seen in previous wars.

By now, the IDF methodically tested and reviewed most of its critical systems and units. Here is a rundown of key exercises, which highlight the army’s singular focus on ensuring full war readiness:

The IDF will hold a giant month-long exercise in May to practice for an all-out war. As part of the drill, the army will deploy large forces in Cyprus to simulate major combat in Lebanon.

A surprise drill in April tested the response to a Hezbollah raid on Mount Hermon. Elite forces were flown to the site by helicopters and simulated a battle with the infiltrators.

The IDF deployed Patriot missiles nationwide in March in the largest-ever exercise of its kind. During the drill, air defense battalions moved the missile batteries from storage sites to wartime positions.

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IDF trains for airborne ops (Archive: IDF/Creative Commons)

A huge Air Force exercise in February simulated an all-out war against Hezbollah. Israeli aircraft trained for intensive strikes and simulated attacks on 3,000 Hezbollah targets in Lebanon in one day. In parallel, the IDF held the Lightning Storm exercise to train for battles with Hezbollah on the Lebanon border.

The Navy held a large exercise in January to simulate a terrorist infiltration from Lebanon at sea and on land. The scenario was based on intelligence information about Hezbollah’s plans.

Last year, the IDF held a huge multi-front war exercise focusing on the northern border. The army’s armored corps also held a drill to prepare tanks for combat in Lebanon’s mountainous terrain.

Elite forces and new weapons

The IDF Commando Brigade has been training for the past year for two strategic missions: Hitting Hezbollah targets deep in Lebanon, and rapidly responding to raids into Israel. In parallel, the elite Ghost Unit developed new methods for quickly detecting and eliminating Hezbollah rocket squads and launchpads.

The Navy is also preparing to play a key role in fighting a war in Lebanon. As part of the upgrade of naval capabilities, the IDF equipped missile boats with precision-guided weapons and a high-powered cannon.

In addition, the IDF is boosting its defensive measures to counter potential Hezbollah raids. A high-ranking officer said that the army is preparing “surprises” for enemy forces who plan to strike inside Israel.

In recent months, the IDF unveiled powerful weapons that will be used against Hezbollah. Israel’s defense industries developed a laser-guided, high-precision mortar for hitting key targets in crowded urban areas. The land army also upgraded its most lethal weapon, a cluster rocket that can cause massive damage across a wide area. The powerful rocket was designed for use in the next war against Hezbollah.

This year, the army revealed that it built a state-of-the-art simulator used by forces to accurately replicate real-life combat scenarios in Lebanon. Last year, the IDF built a unique war training zone near the Lebanon border to prepare combat units for fighting Hezbollah forces.

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IDF develops new weapons (Archive: IDF/Creative Commons)

Meanwhile, top officials have been preparing world opinion for a destructive Israeli assault in Lebanon, a veteran analyst said. IDF Chief Kochavi and Defense Minister Gantz warned that Israel will not hesitate to heavily bomb military targets in civilian areas in the next war.

However, Israel also expects to be hit hard in a future conflict. A Hezbollah expert warned that the group will fire rockets on Tel Aviv in response to attacks on its key assets in Lebanon. Other analysts wrote that both Israel and Hezbollah developed new war doctrines, which will make the next war more devastating than ever.