Israel’s Air Force Scored With Intel, Drone Support; ?Hamas Is Not Hizubllah’
In May 1988, after years of rivalry and clashes, Hezbollah waged a brief but intense war with Amal for control of Beirut's southern suburbs, which at the time contained about one-quarter of the country's population. As Amal was allied with Syria, Hezbollah also clashed with the Syrian Army troops occupying Lebanon at that time. Hezbollah won in the streetfighting and escalated to targeted assassinations and encouraging defections, forcing Amal to seek Syrian mediation. Amal and Hezbollah have remained begrudging allies ever since. Although Hezbollah prevailed militarily, they soon imposed harsh Sharia law on their territory, such as banning coffee and unveiled women, and lost the hearts and minds of their people. Most Lebanese are not Shiite, and even most of Lebanon's Shiites do not want to live in an Islamic state. Support for Hezbollah is much higher than support for hardline Shiite religious rule. Faced with declining public support and collapsing tourism, Hezbollah was forced to abandon its rhetoric of an Islamic republic and enter Lebanese politics in 1992. Since this event, Hezbollah has been "Libanising" and becoming more integrated into Lebanese society. Later efforts by Hezbollah to create social institutions, rebuild homes destroyed by the fighting, and bring sewage, jobs, and electricity to Shiite areas were critical for building public support. 1989 saw the Taif Accord end the Lebanese Civil War and allowed Hezbollah to intensify its military efforts against the IDF.
Israel’s air force scored with intel, drone support; ‘Hamas is not Hizubllah’
In 2006, Hezbollah ambushed an Israeli border patrol inside Israel, killing eight Israeli soldiers and kidnapping two Israeli soldiers in an unsuccessful attempt to bargain for the release of incarcerated Hezbollah prisoners. Israel responded with overwhelming force, sparking the 34-day 2006 Lebanon War. During the course of the war, Hezbollah was described as "an organized, well-trained and well-equipped force" and "fighting hard." In 2006 Hezbollah pursued an asymmetric, integrated standoff fires and area-denial strategy. Hezbollah launched rockets onto populated Israeli areas and cities while using light infantry, bunkers, and anti-tank teams to defend southern Lebanon and attack the IDF. The group focused on small self-sufficient units, based in villages, providing home-front attrition with a somewhat effective command-and-control structure and low mobility. In 2006, Hezbollah used a "Complex Web Defense." "This was characterized by mutually supporting defensive positions, interconnected with resilient, redundant communications, and sustained by stockpiled and hidden supplies. Fighters were often irregulars, but were well trained and very well equipped with top-of-the-line antitank and antipersonnel weapons. They were capable of executing flexible, prearranged plans and demonstrated agility at the lower tactical levels." Hezbollah was willing to fight from villages and other civilian areas, which while a violation of the laws of war, was tactically advantageous. The terrain and climate negated Israel's advantages in armored and maneuver warfare and tested infantry skills, where Hezbollah was strongest. Hezbollah's tactics, including light infantry, anti-tank weapons, and rocket fire onto Israel, were continuations of 1990s-era tactics.
Since the 2006 war, Hezbollah has continued to substantially grow its weapons arsenal, manpower, and intelligence appatus. The group is widely used as the textbook definition of a hybrid actor, with conventional and unconventional warfare capabilities. As a hybrid actor, Hezbollah's main weakness is its need to maintain civilian support to hide among the population while causing great harm to civilians if war breaks out. This causes Hezbollah to have to justify its actions to maintain public support and to avoid war. Since the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011, Hezbollah has deployed a substantial amount of its manpower in the country, where the group engages in counterinsurgency and large scale operations. Most sources agree that this deployment has harmed Hezbollah's morale and public image while improving the organization's ability to conduct large-scale maneuvers and interoperability with allied forces. As of 2017, Hezbollah's military operations include thousands of fighters deployed to Syria to back the Assad government, about 250-500 fighters in Iraq training the Shiite-dominated Popular Mobilization Forces, and about 50 fighters in Yemen on a covert train-and-support mission for Houthi rebels.
In 2006, Jane's assessed Hezbollah's guerrilla forces "to be amongst the most dedicated, motivated and highly trained" in the world. Voice of America reports that "Hezbollah fighters have been schooled from a young age to submit to strict military discipline and are nurtured in a culture of martyrdom, believing that God sanctions their struggles," adding that, "their military and ideological training is rigorous." Hezbollah forces in 2006 were "well trained, well led and suitably equipped" and conducted defense in depth. Reconnaissance work, planning, and intelligence gathering "meticulously" underpin Hezbollah's combat missions. Hezbollah's operations were marked by tactical agility, use of cover, advanced weapons, survival, complex operations, advanced training, and effective command and control. For larger operations, Hezbollah has sometimes demonstrated "task organized" forces, including an assault team, a breach element, and support team. They're not fighting like we thought they would," one soldier said. "They're fighting harder. They're good on their own ground." Hezbollah cells were flexible and able to rapidly combine into larger forces or operate independently when cut off. Reportedly, southern Lebanon was divided up into 75 self-sustaining Hezbollah zones connected together as a network. When the IDF massed firepower and used combined arms, however, it was able to comfortably defeat Hezbollah even in their strongpoints. The 2018 assessment by Israeli military leadership is that the organization has a 45,000 man standing army with many battle-tested fighters.
Hezbollah has trained special forces fighters since the 1990s, which are today part of the Radwan Unit. They have particular experience in raids and small unit tactics and according to Hezbollah perform "ambushes, assassinations, or operations that require deep infiltration." They are secretive but regarded as "surprisingly professional and able" and "tough guerillas who excel in the art of operating clandestinely." According to Israeli Lieutenant Colonel Roni Amir, "when an Israeli SOF team encountered [Hezbollah SOF] on one occasion during a firefight, the Israeli team members thought at first that they had somehow become commingled with a separate detachment of Israeli SEALs." Training lasts 90 days. They are described as "very disciplined" full-time fighters, and in the 1990s were based in Beirut. Hezbollah's SOF include Unit 1800, which provides training to militant groups in the Palestinian territories, Unit 910, which carries out "external operations" in Israel and abroad, and Unit 3800, which supports Iraqi Shiite militant groups, particularly in constructing IEDs. Hezbollah SF participated in the Battle of Bint Jbeil and commanded the Battle of al-Qusayr. Hezbollah SF been heavily involved in the Syria theater.
Iranian military theorists downplay the impact of advanced weaponry for Hezbollah, suggesting that human resources are more important for determining victory. Some independent analysts concur, suggesting that the group's skills, tactics, and organization are more important than the weaponry it possesses. Hezbollah's weaponry is only one component of their overall strength and should absolutely not be seen as indicative of their military strategy. Since 2006, Hezbollah's military procurement has focused on air defense systems and surface-to-surface rockets with increased range and accuracy. Hezbollah is widely expected to attempt to acquire a precision-strike capability in the future. In August 2019, Israeli drones reportedly destroyed a factory in Beirut responsible for developing long-range precision missiles for Hezbollah. The party is also attempting to develop capabilities and operational concepts to attack American forces "in areas where they have traditionally found sanctuary."
Although the group has suffered heavily from the war, with over two thousand deaths, it has also served as a powerful recruiting drive among Shia youth and resulted in the preservation to date of the Assad government. According to former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter, Hezbollah's combat experience in Syria "has made [them] a better fighting force and more adept in conventional military warfare." Although Hezbollah's intervention in Syria has "strengthened and battle-hardened" the group, it has also redirected resources away from Israel and reduced the group's standing among Lebanese Sunnis. The party's involvement in Syria may threaten its war readiness, although the party maintains strong support among Lebanese shias. A lack of established norms in Syria makes the party's relationship there with Israel more volatile.