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‘Hezbollah like Hamas on steroids’ warns former colonel

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On 5 October 2023, retired Israeli Colonel Miri Eisin appeared on the i24 TV channel reflecting on 50 years since the Yom Kippur War. When asked whether the spectacular intelligence failure of 1973 could happen again, she replied, “Absolutely. It could happen tomorrow morning.” She was out by one day. And she believes a war with Hezbollah could be much worse than the one with Hamas in Gaza.

Eisin was speaking in a webinar hosted by the SA Jewish Report and the Jewish National Fund on 23 June. She spent 20 years in the Israel Defense Forces, and served as spokesperson for former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

On 7 October 2023, when they heard the sirens, Eisin and her family first thought that terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon had started a war with Israel. They soon learned it was a murderous attack by Hamas in the south. She said there were two factors that led to Israel missing the impending onslaught. “There was blindness, like the United States on 9/11. We had all the information. We’d seen it, but we didn’t put it all together. There was also unthinkability – we simply couldn’t imagine, predict, prevent, or foretell the genocidal atrocities of 7 October. They were unthinkable. They won’t be anymore.”

Eisin said Hamas terrorists planned to attack more than 40 Israeli communities, cause mayhem, murder, and rape Israelis, and take hostages.

Hamas is using the hundreds of kilometres of subterranean tunnels in Gaza built over the past 15 years to move fighters around the strip. This includes returning terrorists into areas Israel had already ostensibly cleared, like Khan Younis or Gaza City. Eisin noted that smuggling weapons into Gaza was a stream of income for some destitute Bedouins in the barren Sinai desert.

“Israel can destroy the tunnels only 100m at a time – there’s no easy way to do this,” Eisin said. “The ground war has taken nine months and will still take a long time. This a systematic, slow, ugly war. We have to destroy Hamas’s capability to launch an attack like 7 October ever again.”

Eisin believes that timing of the Hamas attack was to scupper rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, with the tacit agreement of Tehran.

“The Islamic regime of Iran,” she said, “has put as its main objective the annihilation of ‘the Zionist entity’, ‘the cancer of the world’ that is Israel. It has anniversaries and holidays to enact it. It has supplied the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza with money, weapons, and training.” Iran also supplies weapons to Russia for its war on Ukraine.

Iran wants to spread its version of Shi’a Islam and destabilise Sunni governments in the region. “The events of the past nine months have been 25 years in the planning as they seek to delegitimise and destroy Israel,” said Eisin.

One of Iran’s proxies, Hezbollah, isn’t made up of Palestinians, but Lebanese Shi’ites, established in 1982 after Israel invaded Lebanon to destroy the Palestine Liberation Organization in Beirut. “Hezbollah is like Hamas on steroids. It has ten times the amount of weapons that Hamas can only dream of, supplied directly by Iran,” Eisin said. “It has the eighth largest stockpile of missiles and rockets in the world, numbering more than 150 000 projectiles. In the past three years, it has massively increased its arsenal of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, often suicide weapons with enormous payloads. It has attacked Israel every single day since 7 October, except for the two days of Hajj.”

So is war with Hezbollah inevitable? “Nothing is inevitable except death and taxes,” Eisin said. She described how Israel has had to evacuate 80 000 people from towns, villages, and farms on the Lebanese border, as well as 100 000 people in the south. Diplomacy must be tried, she said, but there’s a lack of trust. If diplomacy fails, war becomes more likely. “Israel needs safe borders. It will be a harsh war,” Eisin said. Without military confrontation, Hezbollah will feel stronger and continue to attack.

What that war looks like is “a very heavy one to two weeks, as Hezbollah fires many rockets from Lebanon and Syria into Israel”. Currently, 95% of the rockets and mortars fired by Hezbollah and Hamas are intercepted and destroyed by Israel’s defence systems like the Iron Dome, Arrow, and David’s Sling. But with large barrages, the defences will intercept only 80% of the projectiles, and infrastructure and civilian targets will be hit. “This will be all-out war, and Israel will commit ground troops to invade Lebanon, including Beirut. Iran will get the Houthis to attack, but most likely stay out itself.”

She said Iran had all benefits of being a threatening power without actually having nuclear weapons.

Commenting on relations between the United States and Israel, Eisin said, “The prime minister of Israel [Benjamin Netanyahu] has a very challenging relationship with the United States. He himself has become very partisan – he talks to the Republicans and some of the Democrats don’t like him. There’s a younger generation of Democrats that see Israel as a white, colonial, oppressive usurper of Palestinian land.”

In spite of all of this, Eisin remains optimistic, saying, “If we work together, we can make it better.”

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