update deskIsrael at War

IAF chief: Israel prepared to use ‘massive’ firepower to stop Hezbollah

"This will be an attack with massive firepower, removing threats and enabling a change in the security reality," said Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar.

An Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jet at the Tel Nof Base. Jan. 1, 2024. Photo by Moshe Shai/Flash90.
An Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jet at the Tel Nof Base. Jan. 1, 2024. Photo by Moshe Shai/Flash90.

Israeli Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar said on Tuesday that should military operations on the country’s northern front be expanded, the IAF will “enable a change in the security reality in the north.”

Speaking at a ceremony for the re-establishment of Battalion 139 of the Air Defense Array, Bar said: “Alongside the iron defense, we are acting offensively and denying Hezbollah’s capabilities, shoulder to shoulder with the Northern Command. Together, we will also know how to expand and intensify the attack if required.”

Such an attack, he said, would involve “massive firepower, removing threats and enabling a change in the security reality in the north. We have trained for this. The corps is prepared for this…The establishment of the battalion is part of a significant transformation and empowerment process, led by the Air Force, during the fighting, intended to strengthen the air defense of the home—the private home of each and every person standing here before me, and the national home of the Jewish people in their land, Israel.”

Bar went on to say that “for over seven months, the Air Defense Array forces have been in a multi-sector defense battle that is challenging and unprecedented in its scope. Israel is one of the few countries in the world that holds such sophisticated and numerous air defense arrays, operated by such high-quality people.”

Following Bar’s remarks, Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Tom Ironi said: “Although the battalion’s new path officially begins today, during its establishment period, amid the war, it took a significant and historical part in the fighting. The battalion’s personnel absorbed new weapon systems, deployed them on the front lines, intercepted enemy aerial threats and demonstrated fighting spirit, initiative and professionalism, as is customary and expected from the fighters of Battalion 139.”

The 139th Battalion had previously operated the “Hawk” and “Yahalom” weapon systems and was closed in 2021 after nearly 53 years of activity. During the operational needs of the war, the IDF decided to reactivate the battalion, and from now on it will operate the Iron Dome air defense system.

According to a Channel 14 report, the establishment of the battalion will enable an increase in the deployment and optimization of the Iron Dome batteries.

Earlier this week, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich called for a decisive ultimatum to be issued to Hezbollah, demanding they cease attacks and withdraw forces beyond the Litani River or face a significant IDF offensive in Southern Lebanon. 

Furthermore, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with northern local council leaders on Sunday, with whom he discussed plans for restoring security in the northern border regions that have been targeted by Hezbollah attacks since Oct. 7.

Netanyahu emphasized the need for strategic actions, without disclosing specifics. He instructed officials to finalize a plan for government approval to facilitate the return of displaced residents and enhance security.

Additionally, the “Northward” program aims to support the rehabilitation and development of communities near the northern border. Approximately 21,000 evacuees from the north remain housed in hotels across the country, while thousands of others have made other living accommodations further south in the country.  

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