JERUSALEM, Israel – In an unusual step, Israeli Brigadier General Ronen Manelis published a written warning to Lebanon Sunday that tolerance of Iran's military advance into Lebanese territory through Hezbollah is making the country a potential "powder keg." An article by Manelis appeared in a number of Arabic media outlets, which according to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, included Voice of Beirut, Sputnik and Israel Radio's public Arabic broadcast.
Manelis claimed Israel's military intelligence is aware that Iran is using Hezbollah to build precision missiles on Lebanese soil, and that through Tehran, "Lebanon is turning into one big missile factory while much of the international community looks the other way."
He referred to a tour given to journalists near the Israeli border by the terror group Hezbollah several months ago, writing, "This unique phenomenon of 'terror tourism' is a concrete expression to the future of the Cedar State [Lebanon] and the entire region, which is in danger of being overrun by Tehran's henchmen."
Manelis continued, "Ordinary [Lebanese] citizens should not mistake this process as one that can turn Lebanon into a fortress. It is little more than a powder keg on which they are sitting. One in every three or four houses in southern Lebanon is used as a headquarters, a post, a weapons depot or a Hezbollah hideout. We know where these assets are and will know how to surgically strike them."
He charged that "the Lebanese people have become a pawn in the hands of the dictator from Tehran, and the heads of villages, towns and government institutions who see this and choose to remain silent are to blame."
Manelis concluded with the warning that Israel's "red lines have been clearly illustrated. We are not impressed by the dismissive attitude Hezbollah's leader [Hassan Nasrallah] shows and the Lebanese people should not be impressed by it either. The choice is yours."
Meanwhile, a former Israeli naval officer told The Jerusalem Post that the Israeli Navy must prepare to face Hezbollah suicide ships in the next war. Rear Admiral Prof. Shaul Chorev said, "Hezbollah will not need to equip themselves with ships like Israel, but we must assume they will use asymmetric warfare to challenge Israeli technology like land-to-sea missiles or suicide ships like you see in Yemen."
Chorev added, "The next war with Hezbollah could see a focus on the sea," and he cautioned that both Israel's government and the public lack awareness of the maritime threat. Ninety percent of Israel's exports and imports are delivered via boats and ships.
According to Chorev, Iran, which uses Hezbollah as a proxy, "is on the verge of reaching the Mediterranean, including the use of Syrian ports by the Iranian Navy."
The ports are not far from Israel's significant offshore reserves of natural gas.
Middle East Analyst Jonathan Spyer, author of the new book, Days of the Fall: a Reporter's Journey into the Iraq and Syrian Wars, told CBN's Chris Mitchell the warnings by the Israeli military are meant to signal to Israel's enemies and to western allies that any future between Israel and Hezbollah will be more severe and costly than the conflict in 2006.