analysisIsrael at War

Targeted killings will not remove Hezbollah’s massive firepower threat

The Lebanese organization's structure, Iranian funding and recruitment capabilities ensure a continuous flow of personnel to replace losses.

Hezbollah terrorists at a funeral for a slain comrade in Jwaya, Lebanon, April 17, ‎2024, Photo by mohammad kassir/Shutterstock.
Hezbollah terrorists at a funeral for a slain comrade in Jwaya, Lebanon, April 17, ‎2024, Photo by mohammad kassir/Shutterstock.
Yaakov Lappin
Yaakov Lappin
Yaakov Lappin is an Israel-based military affairs correspondent and analyst. He is the in-house analyst at the Miryam Institute; a research associate at the Alma Research and Education Center; and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. He is a frequent guest commentator on international television news networks, including Sky News and i24 News. Lappin is the author of Virtual Caliphate: Exposing the Islamist State on the Internet. Follow him at:

As the ongoing waves of Lebanese projectile and drone attacks on northern Israel demonstrate, targeted strikes, such as the elimination of high-ranking operatives like Sami Taleb Abdullah, aka Abu Taleb, on June 11, serve as tactical achievements but fall short of strategically degrading the severe threat posed by the Hezbollah terror army and its massive arsenal.

While targeted strikes can disrupt command and control temporarily, they do not degrade the underlying military capabilities of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

Hezbollah’s response to Abu Taleb’s assassination—firing over 300 rockets, and UAVs, at northern Israel within 48 hours, including targeting the Plasan Sasa defense company that manufactures armored vehicle parts, underscores its capacity to mobilize and implement large-scale, precise attacks rapidly, and how this ability is not dependent on any single commander.

A troubling pace

Meanwhile, Hezbollah has been making increasingly effective use of Almas guided anti-tank missiles, which are based on Israeli-made Spike missiles that were captured in the 2006 Second Lebanon War and reverse engineered by the Iranians, to target military bases in the north. Hezbollah has also used precise weapons to try and knock out Iron Dome air defense batteries. It is using the current conflict to adapt and learn at a troubling pace.  

Hezbollah’s widespread attack on the north on Wednesday demonstrates that the core threat lies not in any individual commanders but in the substantial firepower array that is entrenched deeply throughout 200 southern Lebanese Shi’ite villages, as well as in Beirut and in the Beka’a Valley.

Tuesday night’s Israeli Air Force targeted strike in the southern Lebanese village of Jwaya killed the most senior Hezbollah commander since the war began, and delivered a stinging blow to the Shi’ite Lebanese terror army, due to the intelligence infiltration of its activities. Yet this. unfortunately, will not be a game changer in terms of the threat posed to Israel.

Abdullah, who was commander of Hezbollah’s territorial Nasr Unit—the equivalent of a division commander—was killed along with three other Hezbollah operatives in the strike on a Hezbollah headquarters.

As the Alma Research and Education Center recently noted, the Nasr Unit, like the Badr and Aziz Units of Hezbollah, has a designated geographic territory in southern Lebanon from which it fires rockets, anti-tank missiles, UAVs and other weapons at northern Israel, and would be in charge of confronting any future Israel Defense Forces ground offensive.

The death of Abu Taleb, although a significant moral blow, did not cripple Hezbollah’s ability to retaliate swiftly and forcefully. On June 12, the immediate response from Hezbollah was a barrage of over 250 rockets into northern Israel, causing widespread fires and damage.  

Hezbollah’s military-terrorist infrastructure and expansive manpower pose the largest conventional threat to Israel. The limitations of targeted strikes as an approach is becoming increasingly evident, as is IAF’s ongoing campaign to strike at Hezbollah weapons storage centers and command posts in a limited fashion, in line with the Israeli War Cabinet’s directive.

Israel continues to prioritize the Gaza arena and the War Cabinet instructed the IDF to keep the northern flames from reaching high intensity. The north, meanwhile, continues to burn.  

Hezbollah’s military-terrorist apparatus is unprecedented. Its firepower arsenal can only be matched by a handful of military powers. Its extensive, well-organized and deeply embedded army nestles within Lebanese-Shi’ite civilian society. Hezbollah’s arsenal of more than 200,000 warheads includes tens of thousands of rockets and missiles, 140,000 mortar shells, precision-guided munitions and unmanned aerial vehicles. This arsenal allows Hezbollah to sustain prolonged conflicts and execute precision strikes against Israeli targets.

Hezbollah’s increasingly effective use of UAVs in recent days is another reminder of this persistent threat. Hezbollah is using the current conflict to rapidly learn how to launch UAVs at sensitive military facilities in Israel.

In recent weeks, Hezbollah has deployed drones with greater frequency and effectiveness, targeting military sites in northern Israel and terrorizing northern communities. On June 10 and 11, Hezbollah’s UAV attacks caused significant damage and fires in several locations in northern Israel.

100,000 men

With 50,000 active members and an equal number of reservists, Hezbollah maintains substantial manpower, allowing the group to absorb losses from targeted strikes and continue its operations with minimal disruption.

Hezbollah’s organizational structure, Iranian funding flow (estimated at around $700 million per year) and recruitment capabilities ensure a continuous flow of personnel to replace losses. Hence, even significant casualties among high-ranking members can be mitigated, allowing the group to sustain its operations over the long term.

As Israel has learned from eight months of war in Gaza, only a ground incursion could significantly uproot such an entrenched threat, but it is up to the Cabinet to decide, soon, whether to activate this option or to try and delay the next northern war, which could also draw in Iran directly.

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