Lebanon's Hezbollah terror group is looking to initiate a "limited offensive" against Israel for the first time since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, said an IDF intelligence report published Tuesday.
The Intelligence Directorate report said over the past few weeks they've identified the initiative on the part of the Iran-backed group to spark an escalation, similar to those initiated by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Over the past years, the Iranian proxy has launched small direct attacks against soldiers in revenge for alleged Israeli raids against its operatives or facilities in Lebanon and especially Syria, where Iran has a strong military presence.
However, the terror organization changed its tactics last July, when it tried and failed twice to infiltrate the northern border in retaliation for the killing of its member in an airstrike, attributed to Israel, near Damascus.
The intelligence analysis says the group has a trained "shock" unit, which it will utilize for a limited offensive lasting two to three days, without being dragged into an all-out war.
The IDF says at least two incidents occurred on the northern frontier over the past week that might point to an increase in tensions in the area and Hezbollah's intentions.
At the beginning of the week, two unarmed Lebanese suspects infiltrated an Israeli enclave across the border fence. The two were chased off by IDF soldiers, who fired in the air upon seeing them.
Officials in the 91st Division, or the Galilee Division - which oversees the frontier with Lebanon - believe the incident was not a coincidence given the infiltration attempt last July had also been also preceded by a "clearing of the field" event by Lebanese herdsmen.
The second incident occurred last week, when a Hezbollah air-defense unit attempt to down an IDF drone that crossed into southern Lebanon, with Russian made weapons. The missile appeared to have missed the target and the army refrained from retaliating.
The army's Northern Command, however, launched a wide-spanning exercise across the frontier, dubbed "Lighting Storm". The exercise will simulate incidents similar to the infiltration attempt last summer.
A possible rise in tension along Israel's border with Lebanon could bring back the possibility of rocket attacks that could drive Israel's northern communities into bomb shelters, a situation not seen in the area for nearly 13 years.
The Intelligence Directorate believes this time Hezbollah will go for an all-out attack against IDF targets in an attempt to "square up" with Israel over its alleged strikes against the organization over the past years, despite the governmental, health and economic crisis gripping Lebanon.
Taking a page from Hamas, military analysts say that Hezbollah will opt for a limited offensive which would force Israel to either minimize or stop its alleged attacks in Syria. The offensive would have to be carried out without harm being done to Israeli civilians, which would cause the IDF to expand the conflict to a wider scale.
According to Arab media, one of the IDF's main targets in Syria are the shipments of precision missile parts, which can allow the Shi'ite militant group to turn simple projectiles into GPS guided rockets, able to strike strategic facilities in Israel.
The army estimates that Hezbollah already posses several dozens of these GPS guided missiles, but the Intelligence Directorate does not recommend launching a preemptive strike against these arsenals since the IDF possess weapons or capabilities to counteract them.
"We are constantly working on dealing with the precision missiles and counteract them through various means, both overt and covert," said IDF Intelligence Directorate chief Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman. "We have already managed to attack hundreds of targets in our battle against these weapons thanks to high intelligence capabilities."
The army receives every 24 hours nearly ten terabytes of photos and aerial simulations, collected from phone and online tracking, the IDF said.
Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah increasing in strength despite pandemic
The intelligence assessment for the coming year reveals that despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Israel's enemies have not stopped their effort to bolster their strengths.
Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran have continued their efforts to invest heavily in advance military capabilities.
This has prompted the IDF to continue its "War Between the Wars" operations - targeted covert inter-war attacks and strikes - against Hezbollah and Iran's continued presence in Syria.
For Israel, the "War Between the Wars" has become the norm on the ground.
Iran, like its proxy Hezbollah, is still looking for attempts to take revenge against Israel, who it blames for the killing of a senior Iranian scientist two months ago in Tehran.
The Intelligence Directorate says that Mohsen Fakhrizadeh's knowledge and experience were nearly irreplaceable, and his death was a serious blow to the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.
So far, it seems most of Iran's attempts were conducted through cyber warfare. Military Intelligence says that Tehran sees Israel as its counterpoint in the region following the normalization agreements with the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan, the resumption of diplomatic relations with Morocco and signs of possible talks with Turkey and Qatar.
The report also says that Tehran is less than two years away from developing its first armed nuclear missile. According to the army, Iran has yet to create the two necessary components for an armed missile, a bomb and a special alloy warhead.
The Islamic Republic currently has 1,300 kgs of uranium, enriched at a level of 4% and 17 kgs enriched at 20%. In order to manufacture one bomb, Iran will need 40 kgs of uranium enriched at 90%. To reach this level of enrichment would take Iran about four months.
However, Iran has already taken several measures, which the IDF labels as "irreversible" to shorten the manufacturing time.
The army also estimates that Tehran does wish to return to the nuclear deal along with the provisions put in place in 2015. According to the accord, by 2023, Iran will be able to import components for surface-to-surface missiles; in 2026, all restrictions on nuclear research and development will be lifted and in 2031 it will be able to freely enrich uranium.
In addition, the lifting of economic sanctions with free up billions of dollars Iran could invest in its proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Gaza and Iraq.
This is why the Intelligence Directorate is urging the Biden administration to continue with the sanctions, even if talks between U.S. and Iran resume.
"Iran is at an all-time low following the past years, and not just because of the pandemic, but it has not abandoned its nuclear program or its aspirations to advance it," Maj. Gen. Hayman said. "At the current state, Iran sees the nuclear deal as its only way out of the crisis and is working to at least return to an agreement similar to the one signed in 2015."
'Qatari money for a false peace'
The report also said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will try to better his country's relations with his neighbors and attempt to return to the Arab League, as well as rebuild his army, in particular the air-defense divisions.
Large swaths of Syria, mainly in the north, will continue to remain under Kurdish or Turkish control. Assad still is reluctant to act against Iran's continued enrichment in his country and is unlikely to change his mind in the coming future.
Of all of Israel's frontiers, the Palestinians seem to be the most stable.
Although Hamas is working to reach a long-term arrangement with Israel, the current quiet on the border with the Gaza Strip is very fragile. The army is also doubting the success of the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, which the Palestinian Authority plans to hold in May and July - first since 2006.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad will continue to build up their power in Gaza, with an emphasis on their rocket arsenals, while trying to silence voices calling for an attack on Israel.
Regarding the new administration in Washington, the Intelligence Directorate sees a great opportunity to work with the new leadership. Biden's picks for various security positions are considered experienced by IDF officials, who see them as a chance for deeper talks and strengthening of ties between Israel and the U.S.
The army estimates that the new administration will be far more involved globally than its predecessor.