Despite exchanges of reassurances by Hezbollah and the Israeli government that they were not seeking war, the Israeli army announced the transfer of Patriot missile batteries to bolster its air defenses and maintained a partial state of alert. Its former chief of staff, Dan Halutz, said the situation was tense on the border and could explode at every moment.
The biggest problem is the intransigence on both sides, according to Halutz, who led the Israeli army during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. He noted that Israel would not allow Hezbollah to develop and modernize old Iranian missiles in its possession, while Hezbollah – backed by Iran - insisted on possessing deterrent weapons against Israel.
“This insistence could certainly lead to war, unless one of the parties concedes, sooner or later,” he warned.
Israeli sources revealed on Thursday that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent a warning letter to Lebanese President Michel Aoun, urging him to dismantle a second factory set up by Hezbollah in the Bekaa to develop and modernize the missiles before Israel attacks it.
The US message was not conveyed by regular diplomatic means through the US Embassy in Beirut, but was transferred directly to Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, who is known for his close ties to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Pompeo told Bassil that Israel had intelligence information about a second missile production plant set up by Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon. “Lebanon should immediately dismantle the second factory, otherwise Israel will attack and destroy it in the coming days,” he said, clearly admitting that the US would support the Israeli attack on Lebanon.
The sources said that this issue was raised during Netanyahu’s meetings in London on Thursday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US Defense Secretary Mark Esper. They revealed that the Israeli premier was accompanied by the air force commander, who informed the British and US officials of the Israeli plans for the coming days in Lebanon.
On Wednesday evening, the Israeli army announced the deployment of air defense systems in several centers in northern Israel, including the US-made Patriot system, the Iron Dome, and others.
A military source said that this step comes in light of Israeli security predictions that Iran and Hezbollah would try to penetrate the Israeli air by booby-trapped drones.