Massive Israeli military drill sends message to Hezbollah
The training exercise, which ended on Tuesday and was unprecedented in scale, aimed to send a message to Hezbollah regarding the magnitude of Israel's retaliation should the Lebanese group succeed in downing an Israeli drone.
On February 3, Hezbollah fired on an Israeli drone as it was flying over southern Lebanon. Israel did not launch an attack afterwards, but this week’s exercise appeared to signal that it would launch revenge attacks should a similar strike succeed in the future.
The exercise – dubbed “Galilee Rose” – employed dozens of aircraft including fighter jets, cargo planes, helicopters and drones, simulating mock strikes on some 3,000 targets in one day, according to Israeli media.
It also included the firing of cruise missiles and other advanced munitions in order to defend against potential Hezbollah strikes.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah issued a warning to Israel in response, saying that it “needs to know that if there is a war with Hezbollah, it will see things it has not seen since the establishment of Israel.”
“If Israel bombs cities in Lebanon, we’ll bomb cities in Israel, and if it bombs villages in Lebanon, we’ll bomb towns in Israel. If the Israeli army bombs our military targets, we can also attack Israel’s military targets,” Nasrallah said.
In 2006, a war broke out when Hezbollah fighters launched several attacks against Israeli soldiers. Israel launched devastating air and missile attacks against Lebanon in response, killing hundreds of civilians.
The chief of staff of the Israeli army, Aviv Kochavi, said earlier this month that Israeli forces will not hesitate to launch an offensive against civilian neighbourhoods, installations or even residences where unmanned missiles, rockets and aircraft are being stored or launched from.
He warned Hezbollah that its next confrontation with Israel will see the Israeli army use an unprecedented level of force.
Iran-backed Hezbollah is a sworn enemy of Israel. The group is the only side not to have disarmed following Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, and it is also a powerful player in Lebanese politics with seats in parliament.
Israel and Lebanon are still technically at war, and a United Nations force, UNIFIL, patrols the border between the two countries.