Israel warned it will respond with extreme counterattacks “in the next war” against threats from its enemies in Iran, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, in a rare address by the IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi on Tuesday.
“In the next war, we will alert populations in Lebanon and in Gaza the moment tensions begin that they must leave areas in which rockets and missiles are being stored,” Kochavi said in a speech at the Israeli INSS think tank’s annual conference.
He added: “In the face of these threats, we will respond with an extremely significant counterattack that will include targeting rockets, missiles and weapons, whether in open areas, or adjacent to and inside buildings.”
He went on to say the Jewish state’s long-time foes, namely Iran and its allies, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza, have been improving their capabilities.
Hezbollah and Hamas have long enjoyed financial and military support from Tehran. Israeli defense officials assess Iran spends nearly $1 billion annually on Hezbollah, and $100 million on Hamas.
“In the last decade both Hezbollah and Hamas built forces which they can use to eventually invade Israel — we are doing everything we can to stop this from happening. Additionally, these organizations are in possession of more and more sophisticated weapons.”
Lebanon and Israel are still in a formal state of war and have long contested their land and maritime borders. Israel has also carried out hundreds of air strikes in neighboring Syria in recent years against suspected Iranian military deployments or arms transfers to Hezbollah.
But, Kochavi added that Israel’s regional enemies were in a “very bad state at the moment,” either due to the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, or “a deep lack of trust between publics and their leaders.”
He stressed, however, Israel’s military preparedness: “I have instructed the IDF to prepare several operational plans in addition to existing ones, which we will develop throughout the coming year. The power to initiate them lies with the political echelon. However, the offensive options need to be prepared, ready and on the table.”
And Kochavi warned Israeli civilians of explosions and debris which might fall on urban areas: “This is an opportunity and an obligation for me to remind the citizens of the State of Israel as clearly as possible that on D-Day, during a war, many missiles and rockets will explode here and it won’t be easy.”