A senior Israeli military officer warned that any Hizbullah retaliation to an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would prompt Israel to launch a war in Lebanon.
The officer, who spoke to the British Telegraph on Sunday, said the war would be so ferocious that it would take a decade to rebuild the villages it destroys.
The warning comes after months of heightened speculation that the Israeli government is considering unilateral military action against Iran's nuclear installations.
The officer urged the Lebanese people not to be drawn into a war for which they, rather than Iran, would bear the brunt of Israel's anger.
“The situation in Lebanon after this war will be horrible,” the officer told the Telegraph. “They will have to think about whether they want it or not. I hope that Iran will not push them into a war that Iran will not pay the price for but that Lebanon will.”
The officer, who spoke to the Telegraph on condition of anonymity, suggested that Israel had taken too cautious an approach in the Second Lebanon War in 2006, leading to the deaths of dozens of Israeli soldiers.
He said that no such mistake would be made in the next conflict, especially as Hizbullah had built military sites in the center of many villages and towns in southern Lebanon.
“In these villages where Hizbullah has infrastructure I will guess that civilians will not have houses to come back to after the war,” he said.
“The Lebanese government has to take this into consideration. Many of the villages in southern Lebanon will be destroyed. Unfortunate, but we will have no other solution. The day after (we attack) the village will be something that it will take 10 years to rebuild.”
The officer said that the ongoing conflict in Syria has made it easier for Hizbullah to smuggle weapons into Lebanon. He added that there is concern that some of the Assad regime's stockpile of chemical weapons could end up in the group's hands.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has warned that sophisticated weapons could be transferred from Syria to Lebanon and to Hizbullah should Assad fall.