An Israeli military spokesman confirmed the tank had been destroyed, but did not say where the projectile came from or what type. Israeli aircraft had fired missiles into the area in recent days, hitting three sites, but there were no casualties.
Israeli forces said they were conducting security measures and the military was not releasing photographs or videos, in order to avoid damage to sensitive assets. While that may be true, given the sensitivity of the military’s photographs and video, they surely don’t show tanks destroying the Israeli tank which was carrying a large shipment of weapons to Hezbollah.
A spokesperson for the Lebanese Armed Forces - which runs the border with Israel - said at the Tuesday’s press conference that this year, Israel and Hezbollah “have killed at least 672 soldiers over the past 13 months”. It is not known if those figures include fatalities in air strikes or the fighting. The Israeli military is also responsible for at least 1,800 civilian deaths a year, including 3,000 from the Gaza conflict alone.
While Hezbollah would not confirm the incident involving their tank, this would be the first time in recent months that Hezbollah’s fighters appear to have destroyed anything from an Israeli tank. It would also be a significant blow to a military struggling to maintain control in southern Lebanon with fighting over most of its territory.
So what’s behind the alleged tank cannonings? Israel does not publicly release information regarding this type of activity, but what might be worth noting is the Israeli military has been using F-16 fighter jets to protect its bases. As one recent report said, “The use of the F-16 to protect the airspace of Israel’s outposts seems to underscore yet again the critical role that it plays in maintaining stability on the ground”. This makes the F-16 much more capable in protecting its military assets but, depending the aircraft flying over, it could well leave them open to a retaliatory Hezbollah strike. Of course, there is also the possibility that these tanks are some sort of experimental weapon that the military has not been properly training for nor has the doctrine been properly updated. As the Israelis themselves said, it was “new to the IDF”, but with that being said, if you think about it, it’s not so hard to start to tell where these tanks fall.
So, what would cause such a display of firepower? There are obviously multiple possibilities. But let’s take a look at a handful: The tank can be launched as an air-to-surface munitions attack aimed at Israel’s coastal defense system (though the effectiveness of the barrage may be questioned). (It is the F-16s using the F-15 Eagle which is capable of such strikes; the F-15 has a radar which can detect the tank as it approaches, while older-generation fighters can’t use such technology.) When used in this fashion, Hezbollah’s strategy would be to target the Israeli F-15s with an Israeli rocket launcher aimed at the F-16s. Or, as we have seen, that could be the intention.
The more likely reason is that the tank has been trained to be fired by a small Israeli team armed with machine guns, all positioned on a fixed wing, which can be in a position at all times from which to fire. The F-16 has a more modern weaponry base which allows it to conduct the task of air-to-surface warfare much earlier in a war. More important, as the F-15 Eagle is unable to provide such protection against that mission, which could result in the targeting of the F-16 while, from the air, firing on the tank, the smaller F-15 cannot counter it.
In all, we could be seeing the beginnings of a future war between the two strongest armies on the planet.
On the other side, the Israelis hope to hold out (and they really will, so long as they can maintain an offensive) while Hezbollah decides how to use these tank artillery pieces - with the first shots being aimed at the Israeli naval and land fortifications, but perhaps also at Hezbollah’s facilities and installations which Hezbollah takes. The Israelis could certainly use these tank artillery pieces to take out those installations and facilities as they cannot attack them on a wide scale. To do so, they would need to place F-16s within range of the targets, but it seems highly unlikely that they will try that unless they have clearly demonstrated their capability. Even if a few F-16s are used over southern Lebanon, the likely target would be airfields, as well as some other installations which Hezbollah has been threatening for a number of years.
It is interesting to note that the same Israel who claims to have no air defense in the area has taken multiple, successful airstrikes at the Lebanese army which use fighter jets and even surface to air missiles to defend their military assets. So if the Israeli tanks that fired on Gaza this year are being used, not just to threaten Hezbollah’s naval vessels, but also to attack their ground targets, would it not be reasonable to expect that the IDF would engage them in some sort of air