Hizballah Preparations For Israeli Action
We've not prepared much analysis on Lebanon at ThreatsWatch as of late. In lieu of our own specific look in the interim, we direct you to a fairly good bit of analysis from Beirut's Ya Libnan, Hizballah's 'Big Surprise' in the next war written by Andrew Exum. Have a look.
The most significant development in southern Lebanon since the end of the 2006 war is Hezbollah's construction of a defensive line north of the Litani River. Whereas all territory south of the Litani falls under the jurisdiction of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), territory north of the river is off-limits to UNIFIL.
As soon as the war with Israel ended, wealthy Hezbollah sympathizers began buying up land north of the Litani -- in historically Christian and Druze areas -- at prices well above the market rate. Much of the Christian village of Chbail, for example, has been bought by the Shiite businessman Ali Tajeddine and repopulated with poor Shiites from the south. Another village just south of the Litani has been built entirely from scratch. Such developments have alarmed other Lebanese communities for purely sectarian reasons. But the construction and repopulation of these villages is almost certainly intended to link the traditionally Shiite villages of the western Bekaa Valley with those of southern Lebanon.
Most of this construction is along a new, Iranian-funded road being built along the Litani's northern edge. Constructed by the "Iranian Organization for Sharing in the Building of Lebanon," the road is as large as any in southern Lebanon and features signs every few hundred meters with slogans such as "In the service of the people of Lebanon."
The analysis contains a fairly cogent view on potential future Israeli operations from a Hizballah vantage point.
Why the Litani?
From the perspective of a Hezbollah military planner, it is difficult to surmise what strategic objectives Israel might seek to accomplish in the event of another war. Hezbollah is left in the awkward position of trying to answer the question of how Israel might fight without knowing why it would fight.
At the moment, the group seems to think that despite Israel's heavy reliance on airpower in the last war -- with ground forces deployed in only a limited fashion -- the next war would begin with a much larger Israeli ground assault. Any attempt to defend the area south of the Litani would therefore be suicidal. Moreover, the deployment of 12,000 UN peacekeepers and several thousand Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) personnel has made the construction of static defensive lines in southern Lebanon much more difficult than it was before summer 2006. Accordingly, even as Hezbollah continues to train village units south of the Litani in the hope that they could slow an Israeli ground invasion, the group has constructed its main defensive positions to the north, where the terrain favors the defender and where Hezbollah could deny Israeli armor columns easy access to the Bekaa Valley.
Give a few minutes reading through Hizballah's 'Big Surprise' in the next war. It's worth your time today, particularly if you've let Hizballah-Israel details slip while focusing on other things this summer.