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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Hezbollah still the most serious threat facing Israel

Hezbollah remains the most serious military threat facing Israel, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) said on Monday in a report.

According to the report, submitted to President Reuven Rivlin by INSS head Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin and quoted by Yedioth Ahronoth, the Lebanon-based terrorist group has rockets that can reach any range, precision-guided missiles, attack and suicide drones, the best Russian-made air defense systems and ground units that are training to conquer Israeli towns and cities.

The INSS recommended that Israel improve its intelligence gathering in an effort to continue reducing the transfer of advanced arms to Hezbollah and consequently reduce the chances of an escalation.

Israel estimates that Hezbollah possesses more than 100,000 rockets hidden in civilian areas in Lebanese villages that could hit northern Israel.

Hezbollah is currently heavily involved in the Syrian civil war, where it is fighting alongside President Bashar Al-Assad’s troops, but its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has continued to threaten Israel even as his group has sustained heavy losses in Syria.

The national security think tank also noted that the chance of another conflict with Hamas, the de-facto terrorist ruler of Gaza, is higher than that of a war with Hezbollah.

Hamas, the INSS determined, may have been deterred after the counterterrorism 2014 Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, but it is continuing to build up its strength.

Furthermore, the think tank said, even if both sides are not interested in escalation, a conflict can erupt over violent incidents or due to the deep social and economic frustration in Gaza that will manifest itself in violence against Israel.

Hamas is known to be busily reconstructing its terror tunnel network breaching into Israeli territory and which was targeted by Israel during the 2014 operation.

The report also addressed Iran, and the INSS noted that while the nuclear agreement signed between Tehran and world powers does give Israel a window of opportunity in the short term, the Islamic Republic is strengthening its conventional capabilities.

In the medium and long term, Iran will become much more dangerous and enjoy international legitimization for a broad and unrestrained nuclear program, said the INSS, according to Yedioth Ahronoth.