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Why This Group, Not ISIS, Remains Israel's Biggest Terror Threat


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JERUSALEM, Israel – For more than two years, the world has focused its attention on ISIS as a common enemy. Other threats and conflicts have almost taken a back seat given the terror group's growth and barbaric attacks.  

But Israel, meanwhile, remains on edge because ISIS joins an already long list of enemies dedicated to its destruction.  

That list includes Hezbollah in Lebanon, which went to war with Israel 10 years ago and could attack again at any moment.  For the Jewish state, this enemy to the north remains the most dangerous foe on Israel's borders.

Preparing for Anything

Recently, Israeli Defense Forces reservists participated in a training exercise along the beach in northern Israel to practice preventing infiltration attempts.

Reserve IDF Col. Zvika Halperin is a home front commander responsible for the Western Galilee -- an area with a population of 600,000. He was in charge of the exercise.

"We are training for a number of scenarios, scenarios where they're (the enemy) coming from the sea, air and land," Halperin told CBN News.

"We're training the authorities for emergency situations, dangerous substance events, events where missiles fall, also from Lebanon, also from Syria, infiltrations of all kinds of forces," Halperin said.

Israel's Most Powerful Enemy

Middle East expert Jonathan Spyer said the Lebanese-based, Iranian proxy Hezbollah is most powerful terrorist enemy of Israel.

"Hezbollah is vastly more powerful than in terms of its core military capabilities – its missiles, its rockets, its ground forces – than are any of the other Islamist militias, which also wish Israel harm," Spyer said. "So Hezbollah remains the, you know, by far the main threat."  

Ten years ago Hezbollah crossed the border, attacking and killing 10 Israeli soldiers and holding the bodies of two of them hostage for years. The incident sparked a war lasting 34 days. Spyer, who fought in a tank unit, told CBN News Israel wasn't prepared.

"Many units, infantry units, armored units, went into the war having not trained adequately in the previous years because they've been very busy fighting that insurgency in the West Bank and in Gaza," Spyer explained.
Hezbollah launched more than 4,000 missiles and rockets at northern Israel, at the rate of more than 100 per day. That put a million Israeli civilians within range.

Flashback to 2006

Near the war's end, CBN founder Pat Robertson traveled to Israel's northern border and spoke with then IDF Ground Forces Commander Gen. Benny Gantz.

"It sounds strange that [it's] the year 2006 and people still think they can destroy Israel as a people and as a nation," Gantz told Robertson then.

"They can't do it," Robertson replied.

"They are the overreach of [former Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, who simply talks about destroying the Jewish people, complaining to the Germans why they didn't finish [the job] in the Second World War," Gantz said.

"Will you finish it so that they [Hezbollah] cease to be a significant force in Lebanon? Are you going to have to stop partway?" Robertson asked.

"We'll have to consider it operationally speaking. And there are two issues. One is the political level. They have to decide what they want to do – coordinated with the international committee and stuff," Gantz said.  

"Operationally speaking we know how to stay on the ground, how to move. I hope we won't get into a situation that we are stuck in one point," he continued.

Hezbollah Stronger than Ever

Since then, the situation has worsened. A re-fortified Hezbollah appears stronger than ever and still wants to finish Israel off.

"We're talking about over 100,000 missiles that they have in southern Lebanon, ready to be launched to Israel," said security expert retired IDF Col. Kobe Marom. "We estimate that any conflict in the future 1,500 missiles a day will be launched here. That's a real threat."  

Marom says Israel knows the missile locations but in any future conflict, they will face challenges in attacking Hezbollah.

"They built their bunkers, tunnels and missile sites under the civilian population – under hospitals, under U.N. positions, under schools because they know when the pictures of the civilian death come to the people in New York City, Paris and London, the game is over," Marom told CBN News.

"That's why they use the life of their people in their struggle against Israel.  That's the reality today in Lebanon," he said.

Marom says Hezbollah has obtained better technology and longer-range missiles that can reach all of Israel. Plus their numbers have grown from 7,000 terrorists to more than 40,000.

Spyer said that's not all.

"They're also gaining a great deal of experience in areas of combat they didn't know about before, fighting in unfamiliar areas, fighting in urban settings, not stuff they'd done before," he said.

Saved by the Syrian War?

Spyer told CBN News that although Hezbollah is stronger, it's distracted by the war in Syria.

"They are now bogged down in a very different war, not a war that they ever wanted, that's the war to protect Bashar Assad's regime – Assad's regime in Syria," he said.

Iran and Hezbollah support Assad because his country helps Iranian weapons make it to Lebanon.

"The bottom line is for as long as the Syrian war continues, it is extremely unlikely that Hezbollah will be able to afford itself the luxury, so to speak, of hitting on Israel and opening up a second front against an enemy, you know, vastly more powerful than the Syrian rebels," Spyer said.

Spyer says fortunately Israel is also better prepared.

"I think the army underwent a change of focus following the 2006 war, understanding that Hezbollah is an enemy of a different nature, that Hezbollah is the main ground threat to Israel today and that that requires an army, you know, effective and able to respond to them," he said.

And as long as Israel is not fighting in any regional conflicts, Spyer says the main goal will be to keep its borders safe and prepare to take on any invaders.

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About The Author

Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel full-time for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN – first as a graduate student in Journalism, then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91, and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. As a correspondent for CBN News, Julie has covered Israel’s wars with Gaza, rocket attacks on Israeli communities, stories on the Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, and the