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In Israel with the 2011 General and Flag Officers Trip – Update #2, Hezbollah is in UNIFIL’s Blind Spot

May 20, 2011

The IDF estimates there are 40,000 short-range missiles in Southern Lebanon as well as medium and long range missiles in the middle of the country. Israel can be targeted as far south as southern Tel Aviv. There are weapons depots in almost every Shi’ite village in the south. The IDF recently released a map of 1,000 such weapons sites in the south, a warning, perhaps to the people there that the IDF knows they are hiding Hezbollah assets and there might be a price to pay.

With that in mind, the JINSA Flag and General Officers Trip participants visited a training base where assimilating the lessons of the 2006 Lebanon War is a priority. Hezbollah is a guerrilla army well-dug into terrain that can’t easily be viewed from above through the trees. They have had plenty of time to set their traps and know the IDF will not use indiscriminate fire. The problem for Israel is to recognize the signs of guerrilla presence and be able to locate individuals as opposed to massed formations of infantry or tanks – as previous generations of the IDF did. Training at the base is rigorous and intense.

Following the visit to the training base, the group had an opportunity to meet with representatives of UNIFIL – the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon – who told us that there is, in their view, no large scale military presence in Southern Lebanon other than the Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL itself. Pointing to their patrols along the roads and noting that they assist the Lebanese Armed Forces when requested to do so, they said there were probably some weapons of which they were not aware, but were fairly certain that mainly only weapons from prior to the 2006 war remained in the South. When it was pointed out that UNIFIL’s mandate does not include patrolling the Syria-Lebanon border through which weapons have been flowing to Hezbollah units, and that UNIFIL’s mandate does not include patrolling inside cities where Hezbollah has been bunkering under homes, schools and mosques, one representative acknowledged that their might be things happening of which they are not aware – but not much.

Weighing UNIFIL’s certainty that not much was happening against the expensive and intensive training the IDF is undergoing in the belief that Hezbollah is planning and arming for the next war, it wasn’t hard to conclude that someone is out of touch with the situation on the ground – and it isn’t the IDF.

Report by Shoshana Bryen, Senior Director for Security Policy

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