“170,000 Rockets and Missiles Threaten Israel”

IDF Head of Intelligence Aviv Kochavi

Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the Chief of the IDF Intelligence Directorate, described Israel’s mounting challenges during a major speech Wednesday. From powerful missiles to the spread of Global Jihad, Israel must confront a host of threats in an increasingly hostile neighborhood.

For the first time in decades, enemy forces can attack all of Israel’s cities, Chief of the IDF Intelligence Directorate Major General Aviv Kochavi said on Wednesday. “About 170,000 rockets and missiles are pointed at Israel, and they are deadlier than ever,” the intelligence chief said. “Many of these weapons can be fired deep into Israel’s territory.”

IDF Intelligence Chief Aviv Kochavi

IDF Intelligence Chief Aviv Kochavi

Speaking at the annual conference of The Institute for National Security Studies, Maj. Gen. Kochavi described Israel’s rising security challenges, ranging from regional instability, to organized terrorism and Global Jihad. “Every day, the enemy continues to advance,” he said. “For the first time in many years, Israel is almost completely surrounded by threats. These are not potential threats, but threats posed by an active enemy.”

The new age of terrorism

Maj. Gen. Kochavi estimated that Hezbollah, the terrorist organization positioned along Israel’s northern border, now possesses 100,000 rockets and missiles. The extraordinary size of this stockpile redefines Hezbollah’s capabilities, placing it in the category of a “semi-military” organization. “Hezbollah is no longer a terrorist organization in the most basic sense of the term,” the intelligence chief stressed. “An organization that has more than 100,000 rockets resembles a military more than a terrorist organization.”

Hezbollah members during a parade

Hezbollah members during a parade.

This change in definition applies to terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East, Maj. Gen. Kochavi stressed. “The line between ‘terrorist organization’ and ‘military’ is becoming increasingly blurred,” he warned. “They possess advanced anti-tank missiles and mortars. The same goes for Hamas,” the Gaza-based terrorist organization whose rockets threaten millions of Israeli civilians.

“Thousands of our enemies’ missiles are armed with warheads and 700-900 kilograms of explosive material,” the intelligence chief said. “These weapons can define the course of war and our decision making [in battle]. As long as our enemies have rockets that threaten every part of Israel, they can continue to wage a war, even after we have taken [parts of enemy] territory.”

Urban warfare: the evolving battlefield

Terrorist groups near Israel have changed the nature of war, moving from open spaces into urban areas. “The enemy is hiding in cities and villages, wearing civilian clothing while equipped with advanced weaponry. Tens of kilometers of underground tunnels exist in Gaza and Southern Lebanon.”

IDF officers train for urban warfare

IDF officers train for urban warfare

IDF forces must quickly adapt to this evolving reality of asymmetric warfare, Maj. Gen. Kochavi said. “Today we must provide them with precise details about every rocket launching site. Otherwise, the enemy will continue to fire on the Israeli population.”

A regional shift against Israel and the west

In the wake of the Arab Spring, governments throughout the Middle East have lost control of their populations.  This widespread phenomenon of fragmentation has confronted Israel with an evolving and uncertain reality. “The Syrian side of the Golan region has fallen under the control of several different powers,” Maj. Gen. Kochavi said. “Every village is controlled by different authorities, including the Syrian Free Army, Jihadist groups and the Syrian military.”

IDF Chief of the General Staff Benny Gantz surveys threats near Syria

Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz on the Syrian border. Archive photo.

The intelligence chief pointed to Global Jihad as “the most troubling phenomenon of all,” explaining that about 30,000 Global Jihad operatives are active in Syria. “Syria has turned into a magnet for these operatives – from Europe, Asia, Australia and even the Americas,” he said. “They may not take over Haifa, but for the first time in history, they are injecting a radical religious ideology against the west into the Middle East.”

Maj. Gen. Kochavi focused on similar challenges in the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, where a changing landscape is creating uncertainty for Israel. “All of the small groups in these areas can become larger. This creates a tremendous challenge for the Intelligence Corps.”

An improved IDF

The IDF is quickly enhancing its readiness for threats, improving its intelligence capabilities to maintain its edge over the enemy. Advancements in cyber defense constitute a major part of these efforts. “Today, the intelligence we used to gather with 40 people is now obtained with four,” Maj. Gen. Kochavi said. “Cyber defense, in my modest opinion, will soon be revealed to be the biggest [military] revolution in the past century, more than gunpowder and the use of air power.”

Lotem-C4i leads the IDF's cyber battlefront, deflecting threats to Israel's security.

Lotem-C4i leads the IDF’s cyber battlefront, deflecting threats to Israel’s security.

As he discussed upgraded capabilities in the air force and the navy, he focused on Israel’s tremendous strides in intelligence. “We are upgrading our units in order to obtain intelligence through greater means,” he said. “We are obtaining better-processed and more diverse intelligence from more sources, and we are providing it to our fighters.”

 

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