With scores of Hezbollah members dead in three weeks of border fighting with Israel, the Lebanese organization is attempting to limit its casualties as it prepares for a protracted confrontation, according to three individuals familiar with its thinking.
Since its Palestinian affiliate Hamas and Israel went to battle on Oct. 7, the Iran-backed organization has lost 47 militants to Israeli strikes on Lebanon’s border, almost one-fifth of the number killed in a full-scale war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.
With the majority of its militants killed in Israeli drone attacks, Hezbollah has revealed for the first time its surface-to-air missile capability, announcing on Sunday that it has destroyed an Israeli drone. The missiles are part of an ever-expanding arsenal.
The Israeli military has not commented on Sunday’s reported drone incident. But Israel said on Saturday it had stopped a surface-to-air missile fired from Lebanon at one of its drones and that it responded by striking the launch site.
One of the sources familiar with Hezbollah’s thinking told Reuters that the use of anti-aircraft missiles was one of several steps taken by the Shi’ite Muslim group to curb its losses and counter Israeli drones, which have picked off its fighters in the rocky terrain and olive groves along the border.
Hezbollah had made “arrangements to reduce the number of martyrs”, the source said, without offering further details.
Since the onset of the Hamas-Israel war, Hezbollah’s attacks have been calibrated to contain clashes to the border zone, even as it has indicated a readiness for all-out war if necessary, sources familiar with its thinking say.
Israel, which is waging a war in the Gaza Strip that it says aims to destroy Hamas, has said it has no interest in a conflict on its northern frontier with Lebanon, where it has said so far that seven of its soldiers have been killed.
“I hope we will be able to keep the quiet on this front,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told a briefing, adding that he believed Israel’s strong defence forces and their actions in Gaza had deterred Hezbollah till now.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel would unleash devastation on Lebanon if a war did start.