A time-bomb in the Warehouse

Exposure of Hezbollah missile depot in Beirut should raise widespread awareness of the dangers of terrorists among civilians. Opinion.

Colonel (res.) Tal Braun ,

Netanyahu reveals Hezbollah weapons depot near Beirut Airport
Netanyahu reveals Hezbollah weapons depot near Beirut Airport
Photo: GPO Video

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivered his annual speech at the UN General Assembly at the end of September, during which he unveiled the discovery of a weapons depot which also serves as a Hezbollah missile plant located in the heart of Beirut.

He called on Lebanese residents to demand that the terrorist organization cease its activities in the neighborhood. The exposure of weapons and ammunition depots in residential areas, as well as various headquarters and infrastructure of terrorist organizations is not shocking news and can only be considered a situational surprise for those who are unfamiliar with, or not closely following Hezbollah's assessments of the conflict with Israel.

It is known that Hezbollah has made and still makes extensive use of civilian areas for its military needs, as was revealed by IDF fighters during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

The hiding of missiles and rockets in private homes, along with a variety of weapons, explosives and means of intelligence gathering, was in fact routine. The September 22nd explosion in the village of Qana in southern Lebanon, was a reminder of the real price that civilians pay for this practice.

Similar incidents continued to take place, such as a series of explosions in the Baalbek area (in Eastern Lebanon) in October 2012, and accidental ammunition blasts in Southern Lebanese villages such as Shahabania in September 2010 and in Hirbat Slem in July 2009, where chemical warfare components exploded.

The use of agricultural facilities in Lebanese rural areas has also become a cover for Hezbollah activities, such as the case of an explosion which was reported to have taken place on a poultry farm which was actually an ammunition depot, in the town of Tir Harfa, in December 2012. In addition, Hezbollah uses civilian hospitals, sports facilities, airports and seaports for storage purposes, as evidenced by the catastrophic explosion at the Beirut port warehouses on August 4th this year.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s revelation in the U.N assembly was not the first to be published regarding this specific issue.

Immediately after his speech in front of the same forum in September 2018, the IDF spokesman presented a video depicting Hezbollah attempts to develop a precise missile industry infrastructure in the center of the Lebanese capital Beirut, close to the airport.

Other sites that the IDF exposed, as a part of the missile project were in the Hezbollah soccer stadium, a site at the marina, a site near 'Hariri' international airport and one in the heart of a neighborhood, only 500 meters (0.3 miles) from the landing strip at the airport.

Hezbollah has been intensifying its confrontation with Israel for a long time and has turned many villages near the border into assembly and staging areas in preparation for attacking civilian centers in Northern Israel. For this purpose, dwellings have been converted for various military purposes and offensive tunnels dug into Israeli territory. These were discovered by the IDF and neutralized as part of 'Operation Northern Shield', which began in December 2018.

According to various estimates, about 180 Shi’ite Muslim towns have become guerrilla and terrorist bases, under the lackadaisical supervision of UN and the Lebanese Armed Forces. Thus, under the auspices of the Iranians, Hezbollah has turned the citizens of Lebanon into reluctant human shields and taken the entire country hostage, leaving it literally sitting on a barrel of explosives.

This phenomenon is not unique to Lebanon. The organizations in the Gaza Strip are also known to place weapons, workshops for their production and terrorist headquarters inside civilian homes and facilities. This trend has been increasingly exposed in recent years as a result of intelligence efforts and IDF operations, during which civilian infrastructures such as schools and hospitals have been proven to be used for the terrorist purposes of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others.

Terror among civilians

Since its establishment, the State of Israel has uncompromisingly observed the values ​​of moral warfare. The leaders of terrorist organizations know that the IDF will do its utmost not to endanger innocent residents and will do the maximum to accurately hit targets that have been meticulously approved by the most senior command levels. To this end, the IDF invests enormous efforts in gathering intelligence, in smart and accurate means and in developing specialized methods and techniques for combat in civilian centers. These values ​​distinguish Israel from its enemies, but also allow terrorist organizations to shelter in the shadow of civilians while continuing uninterrupted malicious activity.

Terrorist organizations know how to take advantage of the media. For Hamas leaders, one image of an injured or killed innocent civilian is a glorious victory, as has been seen in recent Gaza clashes. In addition, they do not consider themselves committed to any moral or legal code and frequently commit war crimes such as deliberate firing at population centers in Israeli territory; they do not balk from doing the same to their own citizens on different occasions. This has been the case in all of Israel's wars and operations, from the 1940's until The Second Lebanon War, and it is still happening on the Gaza front today. Hamas knows very well how to exploit and manipulate the face of the campaign in order to force a ceasefire on Israel when it is convenient for them. Sadly, the international media often chooses to cooperate.

The abuse of civilian space by terrorist and guerrilla organizations is part of a doctrine of warfare that seeks to outwit the regular Israeli army on the other side. Hezbollah and Hamas are becoming semi-military organizations with the advantage of the knowledge and experience they gained as terror and guerilla militias. Their doctrine is based upon the use of civilian areas, for their activities. Without this freedom of movement, their entire survival and existence is doubtful.

Hezbollah, unlike Hamas, operated from fortified compounds in open terrain in Southern Lebanon until the Second Lebanon War. As a result of lessons learned facing the superiority of the IDF, as well as UN Security Council resolution 1701, restraining Hezbollah’s armed presence in open terrain, they relocated their efforts and infrastructure to urban areas.
The civilian urban zone became Hezbollahs' main military domain and civilians their shields, same as with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, to protect the terrorists from the IDF.

This is all in direct contrast to Israel’s commitment to comply with the conditions of international and Israeli law and with the values ​​that lead the IDF, in combat situations in complex terrains involving innocent civilians.

While the IDF and the Israeli security industry developed the 'Iron Dome' air defense system, designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells fired from enemy lines before hitting civilian centers, the terror organizations are using civilians to protect their own lives.

Deductive

Lebanon is a complicated place, torn between different denominational groups, centers of power and conflicting affiliations; a country whose leaders are slaughtered, bombed or just mysteriously disappear every few years, whose wealthy citizens emigrate from it, while others sink further into the mire.

In a Middle-Eastern entity such as Lebanon or the Palestinian Authority there is neither one people nor 'one army' to be spoken of and no single center of military power.

This means that the fate of civilians is determined by radical Islamic hubs which are influenced by Iran. The explosion in Beirut once again demonstrated the price of Hezbollahs' control over the country, which is being paid by ordinary citizens quietly living their life at home.

This reality, that the people of Lebanon and Gaza understand only too well, should also be understood at least as well in the Western countries and international agencies that support the terror organizations of Hamas and Hezbollah.

That is why it was so important for the Israeli Prime Minister to present the issue once again to the Plenum of the United Nations. Whilst calling on the residents to remove the terrorist infrastructure from their midst is undoubtedly an important statement, it is insufficient, since it is clear that they do not have the power to fight a violent, corrupt and murderous terrorist organization supported by Iran.

The Israeli point of view

If the severe economic and political crisis in Lebanon has failed to bring about change, then what will help? Suggestions for solutions to the complex situation have been bandied about for years by the best experts. I cannot pretend to offer new solutions, but as an Israeli officer, who cares deeply for Israel's security, I would like to suggest a change in Israeli policy.

Israel must make it clear to the Western world and to the Arabs of the region alike, at both political and security levels, that the price of silence in the face of terrorist activity among civilians endangers them far more than the IDF's threat of response.

Action must be taken to impress upon world leaders that the State of Israel will not tolerate any violation of its sovereignty, whether it is committed above or below ground.

Israel must make it clear that any threat on Israeli citizens will be dealt with severely, and leaders of the terror organizations and their ability to generate support from the locals will be targeted first. International action against financing and arming terrorist organizations must be encouraged and it should be ensured that the price paid for aiding them will be unbearable. In light of the existing tension, especially now with the additional complication of covid-19, it is imperative the IDF and the State of Israel prepare for offensive and defensive scenarios and exceptional regional developments.

Colonel (res.) Tal Braun, a strategic advisor, held a number of high command positions in a variety of IDF combat units.



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