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Israel’s Next Northern War: Operational and Legal Challenges

Israel’s Next Northern War: Operational and Legal Challenges provides a detailed analysis of the increasingly prevalent phenomenon of hybrid warfare, where law-abiding militaries, like the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), confront non-state actors, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, that blend unrestricted warfare tactics and sophisticated information operations with the advanced weaponry of modern conventional forces.

When the next Israel-Hezbollah conflict erupts, it will bear little resemblance to anything that has come before between Israel and its adversaries. Changes in the strategic environment in the twelve years since the last Israeli-Hezbollah conflict will translate into unparalleled death and destruction, because Hezbollah now possesses more firepower than 95 percent of the world’s conventional militaries, and more rockets and missiles than all European NATO members combined.

Despite the quantum leap in Hezbollah’s military capabilities since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, it is under no illusion about its ability to inflict a strategic military defeat on the IDF.

Instead, Hezbollah’s objective will be the defeat of Israel in the forum of public opinion.

Hezbollah will seek to portray Israel as an arbitrary, immoral, and illegal murderer of civilians by illegally exposing Lebanese civilians to harm, manipulating the media narrative, and exploiting widespread misconceptions about the law of armed conflict (LOAC). By weaponizing information and the law, Hezbollah will hope to survive to fight another day while delegitimizing Israel in the eyes of the world before the IDF can achieve a decisive military victory.

Against the backdrop of this looming conflict, our Hybrid Warfare Task Force produced this report examining the operational and legal challenges confronting Israel in its next, unprecedently destructive, armed conflict with Hezbollah and potentially other adversaries, including Iran.

This report articulates how actions taken by U.S., Israeli, and other allied militaries in actual combat situations comply with, and often exceed, the requirements of the LOAC. It also explains how Hezbollah will intentionally exploit that same body of law to stymie the IDF in battle and discredit the latter’s self-defense operations in the hopes to securing a strategic victory in the forum of public opinion.

Click here to download the report.

Task Force Members

Gen Gilmary “Mike” Hostage, USAF (ret.)
Former Commander, Air Combat Command

LtGen Richard Natonski, USMC (ret.)
Former Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command

LTG Michael S. Tucker, USA (ret.)
Former Commanding General, First United States Army

COL Marc Warren, USA (ret.)
Former Senior Staff Judge Advocate for Coalition Forces in Iraq

LTC Geoffrey S. Corn, USA (ret.)
Presidential Research Professor of Law, South Texas College of Law, Houston