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Sunday, 1 June 2014

Israel Air Force’s Firepower Continues to Build

Israel capable of bringing a fight with Hezbollah to a swift end

An Israeli Air Force T-6 Texan II / AP

An Israeli Air Force T-6 Texan II / AP


JERUSALEM—The firepower of the Israel Air Force (IAF) will be four times greater by year’s end than it was two years ago, according to its commander, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, enabling Israel to bring another round of fighting with Hezbollah to a swift end.

“We can destroy [Hezbollah’s] military capabilities and the infrastructure that supports its activities on a scale that would take decades to rebuild,” he told a conference on national security, “an unimaginable scale”.

The vast number of rockets in the hands of the Lebanese militia—reportedly as many as 100,000—makes it imperative for Israel to shorten the next round of fighting. Hezbollah can only fire a limited number of rockets each day. In the three-week war with Israel in 2006 it fired 4,000 rockets.

Eshel acknowledged that Hezbollah now has precision rocketry capable of hitting Israel’s northernmost air force base and to interfere with operations. However, he said, it would not diminish the IAF’s offensive capabilities, which can be projected from other bases as well. The air force commander warned that Israel’s anti-rocket defense systems, like Iron Dome, while effective, were not hermetic. In a war with Hezbollah, Israel would be able to protect “its national resources and urban areas,” he said, but not all of its civilians. In the 2006 conflict, 40 civilians were killed by rockets.

The use of precision munitions and upgraded intelligence, based in part on satellites, accounts in good part for the increase in the IAF’s effective firepower, Eshel said. The air force could carry out thousands of accurate strikes in a single day, he said. “I believe our capabilities are second only to those of the United States.”

By the end of this year, the air force will be able accomplish in 24 hours what it took three days to accomplish in the war with Hezbollah eight years ago, Eshel said.

While Eshel said that Israel would make efforts to avoid civilian casualties in Lebanon, his warning that attacks would be directed at infrastructure supporting Hezbollah appears to refer to roads and other public targets, perhaps including Beirut Airport, through which Iran sends weaponry to Hezbollah. He said that Hezbollah’s positioning of weapons in civilian areas would not exempt the rockets and command centers located there from attack.

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