In 2018 the then spokesman of the Israel Defense Forces, Ronen Manelis, published an op-ed on Lebanese opposition websites and in various Arab media about the Iranian takeover — via its terror proxy Hizballah — of the Land of the Cedars.
“Lebanon,” Manelis wrote,
has turned…into one large missile factory…. One in every three or four houses in southern Lebanon is a headquarters, a post, a weapons depot or a Hezbollah hideout. We know of these assets and we know how to attack them accurately if required.
The future of the Lebanese citizens is that of a pawn in the hands of the dictator from Tehran, and the heads of villages, towns and government institutions who see and choose to remain silent are also to blame.
Manelis was saying that: Iran, via Hizballah, has turned southern Lebanon into a big human shield. Israel knows where all the facilities are and in case of war can hit them. Lebanese authorities should at least speak out about it before it’s too late.
Now an Israeli watchdog called the ALMA Center has revealed for the first time that Hizballah also has “at least 28 missile launching sites” in Beirut itself, the capital.
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“The world must understand and know,” said Tal Beeri, head of the ALMA Center’s research department, “that these launch sites are located at the heart of residential and urban civil infrastructure.”
As the center’s report details:
Almost all of the sites are in southern Beirut, an area controlled by Hezbollah, and are located in civilian neighborhoods, inside private houses, medical centers, churches, industrial sites, public offices, fast food chains, as well as in open spaces nearby, hence activating the “human shield” tactic….
Based on our insight into Hezbollah’s action patterns these sites are available for immediate operational use.
Israel has long been trying to make clear that, in case of another Israel-Hizballah war (the first was in 2006), it will have no choice but to inflict civilian casualties — or let Hizballah fire missiles into Israel at will from launch sites embedded in schools, hospitals, private homes, and the like.
Back in 2011 Israel sent the Washington Post detailed maps (since then deleted, but you can still see them here) of about a thousand Hizballah bunkers and other sites in Lebanon, mostly in villages in the heavily Shiite-populated south — stressing that this is the enemy and the reality that Israel has to deal with.
Hizballah is dead-set on using the human-shield method — now, it turns out, even in the dense urban landscape of Beirut — because it knows how well it worked for Hamas during the Gaza wars in 2008-09, 2012, and 2014. Western media portrayed Israel as a ruthless killer; the EU, the UN, and Western governments heavily pressured Israel to rein in its forces even as rockets rained down on its territory.
During the 2014 war, the Obama administration cut off arms supplies to Israel for days because of civilian casualties in Gaza. After the war, Gen. William Dempsey, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said:
I actually do think that Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties….
In this kind of conflict, where you are held to a standard that your enemy is not held to, you’re going to be criticized….
How likely is another Israel-Hizballah war at present?
In some regards, not too likely. Hizballah and its patron Iran are beset with other problems. Hizballah has essentially turned Lebanon into a failed state, its economy now in dire condition with astronomic debt, a collapsing currency, and basic commodities unaffordable to many. Iran, for its part, is reeling from U.S. sanctions and a severe COVID-19 crisis.
But, on the other hand, conflict between Israel and Iran is heating up. In a cyberattack in April, Iran tried to poison Israel’s water supply. In May, Israel apparently retaliated with a nonlethal cyberattack on an Iranian port. More recently, Israel is thought to be behind a major explosion in Iran’s nuclear-weapons site in Natanz, and possibly behind other attacks on Iran’s nuclear and other infrastructure.
In an escalating conflict situation, there is always a chance of Iran unleashing Hizballah (currently thought to have 130,000 missiles and rockets) against Israel. If and when that happens, Israel will have to contend not only with a barbaric enemy that erases the distinction between combatants and noncombatants even within its own population, but with a world that seems easily manipulated by that barbarism.