Quarterly Updates for (16 Aug 2016 — 15 Nov 2016)

After the single major cross-border incident of the quarter on 10/26 (see Chronology for details), the IDF was reportedly preparing for a possible return to full-scale violence on Israel’s n. border with Lebanon. There were no other signs of an imminent escalation, but Israeli media reports indicated that the IDF was at least considering the possibility of another war with Hezbollah. According to Ynet on 10/27, the IDF was worried that the 10/26 attack, in which unidentified Lebanese assailants driving along the border opened fire on Israeli forces patrolling the other side, exposed a weak point in Israel’s defenses. Top IDF officials surmised that Hezbollah might send foot soldiers to capture small areas of territory at other similar weak points along the border. To defend against that eventuality, they said, the IDF was working on a 3-year, 30-km border defense project, including reinforced concrete barriers, fortified towers, and other security upgrades. The IDF was also devising a contingency plan in the event of another war with Hezbollah, according to Haaretz on 10/18. Deviating from standard Israeli practice, the plan included an outline for evacuating 78,000 residents of the area along the border with Lebanon.

Another major development was the announcement that Lebanon had finally elected a new head of state, former Gen. Michel Aoun. After 4 rounds of voting, Lebanon’s parliament formally elevated Aoun to the presidency on 10/13, after the office had been vacant for 2.5 years. Although it is still unclear how Aoun’s presidency might alter Lebanon’s position on Israel, the incoming president alluded to a possible conflict with the IDF, vowing to free “what is left of our lands under Israeli occupation.” Aoun was reported as saying, “We will always be ready to help and support the resistance forces to liberate every last meter of Lebanese territory that has not yet been returned.” Aoun is an ally of Hezbollah, having signed a partnership agreement between his party, the Free Patriotic Movement, and the group in 2006.