Israel fears Hezbollah will blockade sea in future war

Navy assessments are that Hezbollah will try to target cargo ships within 30-kilometer radius of Israel to try to get commercial vessels to refuse to sail there during war; senior navy officer: Operational capability exists.


Israel is concerned that in a future war with Hezbollah, the Lebanese guerilla group will try to impose a sea blockade on Israel by attacking civilian cargo ships.

Container ship (illustrative) - Photo: Thinkstock/Imagebank

Container ship (illustrative) - Photo: Thinkstock/Imagebank

Israel’s sea lines of communication (SLOC) span the length of the Mediterranean and around the Magreb region of North Africa with some 99 percent of all goods arriving in the country by sea, including ammunition and military hardware.

Navy assessments are that Hezbollah will try to attack cargo ships within a 30-kilometer radius of Israel in an effort to get commercial vessels to refuse to sail there during a war.

During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, a Hezbollah-fired missile hit the INS Hanit, killing four sailors and causing extensive damage. Another missile hit and sunk a nearby cargo freighter.

“Hezbollah has already proven that it can fire missiles so the operational capability exists as does the readiness to act,” a senior navy officer said.

The officer warned of the economic ramifications for Israel if Hezbollah succeeded in stopping cargo freighters from sailing to the ports of Ashdod and Haifa.

“People have not internalized what it means that 99 percent of what we import as a country comes by sea,” he said. “Ships stopping to sail here would have economic and security ramifications and is therefore the first and primary challenge we will need to confront.”

Hezbollah is believed to have a significant arsenal of Chinese-developed anti-ship missiles like the C-802 which is radar-guided and was used to hit the Hanit in 2006.

In addition, the navy is concerned with Syria’s recent purchase of the Russian Yakhont anti-ship missile, which could be transferred to Hezbollah in a future war. Syria already tested the Yakhont in recent maneuvers and the missile is said to have a range of about 300 km.

“We are closely following what is happening in Syria and if a response is needed, we will know how to respond,” the officer said.

One of the failures that led to the missile strike on the Hanit was the navy’s decision to deactivate its Barak missile defense system due to a lack of intelligence that Hezbollah was in possession of sophisticated anti-ship missiles.

The Navy plans in the coming years to equip its ships soon with the a new missile defense system called Barak-8, which is scheduled to become operational in the coming years. The new missile will reportedly feature a more advanced seeker and be capable of longer ranges, close to a few dozen km.


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