With northern Israel aflame, IDF warns of ‘decision’ against Hezbollah

Israel’s IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Herzi Halevi speaks with IDF officers in northern Israel on June 4. (IDF)

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi traveled to northern Israel on June 4 to conduct a situational assessment as Hezbollah continued its escalatory attack with rocket and missile fire against Israel. Halevi came to northern Israel one day after fires swept across parts of northern Israel near the city of Kiryat Shmona and required the few civilians remaining in the city since October 7 to be evacuated.

The fires in northern Israel have led to a wake-up call throughout the country. Despite a sum of Hezbollah attacks in the thousands and because they are made up of approximately one dozen attacks each day, this appears to be a smaller conflict than the war in Gaza. Hezbollah often launches several drone and missile attacks per day and fires a salvo of rockets. Although this adds up over time, the attacks appear to be less serious because they happen over a large area. When sirens sound in these mostly-evacuated areas, an impression of relative calm is still able to be maintained to anyone passing through the area. Hezbollah has achieved a new “equation” in the north, meaning that it now ties this rocket fire to the war in Gaza. Although Israel has preferred not to fight a two-front war, Hezbollah attacks increased in May as the group doubled its drone and missile attacks.

Along the border there is the buzzing of drones and artillery fire from the IDF responding to threats. The fires that were ignited on June 2 and June 3 are due to the heatwave sweeping Israel. Halevi met with the Israel Fire and Rescue Services Commissioner, Fire Commissioner Eyal Caspi at the Gibor Camp on the northern border, the IDF said on June 4. The Gibor camp was targeted by Hezbollah on June 1 and several of its buildings damaged. The camp is the headquarters of the 769th brigade, which protects Kiryat Shmona and areas in the eastern Galilee.

At the base, Halevi met with the commander of the IDF’s 91st division which is responsible for the northern border with Lebanon. “Following this, they met the forces that operated last night (Monday) to put out the fires in the north, and noted the determination and professionalism with which they operated,” the IDF said. Halevi also met with officers of the IDF’s Golani brigade. The brigade is part of the IDF’s 36th division, which was moved north in January after fighting in Gaza. The 36th is usually based in the north. It has an armored brigade, the 188th, which is now also in the north. However, its 7th armored brigade is in Gaza. This means the 36th division is not as large as it usually is but it has been training often to prepare for escalation with Hezbollah.

The increasing attacks by Hezbollah have compelled Israel to consider response options. Usually the IDF conducts precision proportional response, meaning if Hezbollah launches a rocket, the IDF will usually hit the rocket launch site but not strike the cell responsible. Nevertheless, Hezbollah has taken losses over the last eight months. Around 300 of its members are estimated to have been killed. “We are approaching the point where a decision will have to be made, and the IDF is prepared and very ready for this decision. We have been striking here for eight months and Hezbollah is paying a very, very high price,” Halevi said. “Hezbollah has increased its attacks in recent days and we are prepared after a very good process of training up to the level of a General Staff exercise to move to an offensive in the north. Strong defense, readiness for an offensive, we are approaching a decision point.”

Reporting from Israel, Seth J. Frantzman is an adjunct fellow at FDD and a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal. He is the acting news editor and senior Middle East correspondent and analyst at The Jerusalem Post. 


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