Israeli officials attempted to refute claims that the state's force of deterrence had been compromised by the huge Carmel forest fire over the weekend, even as terror groups rejoiced in the apparent ease with which the state could be put out of commission.
Brigadier-General Giora Eiland told Ynet that although the firefighting services were ultimately proven to be "the weakest link", that only meant that they would be fortified. "Theoretically, if there is a conflict with Hezbollah it will find itself facing a better-prepared firefighting system than before," Eiland said.
"The damage Israel can do to Lebanon is immeasurably greater and seeing as no one wants destruction in Lebanon, Israel can prevent the next war, or even win it in a few days, if it engages in total war," he added.
"There is no doubt a certain weakness was revealed here, but the fact that it was revealed now, internally, will, despite the hefty price, significantly strengthen the system so that in retrospect it will have assisted in times of war. Something good can still come of this."
On the other hand, news agencies identified with Hezbollah and Hamas paint a different picture. "The large Carmel fire shamed the Israeli firefighters and proved almost total inability," Hezbollah's al-Manar reported Saturday.
"This was despite the extensive training the Zionist enemy has had in recent years and claims by Israeli officials regarding the home front's complete preparation to handle any emergency, as well as its ability to face the consequences of total war."
'Israel a paper tiger'
The Palestinian daily Palestine, identified with Hamas, ran a column by Mustafa al-Sawaf. "This fire revealed sheer helplessness on Israel's part, in its internal arena, to face a natural disaster that could occur at any time – whether as a result of arson by an unstable person or the explosion of a missile or rocket like those fired from Gaza," al-Sawaf wrote.
"The fire clearly shows that the occupation state is nothing but a paper tiger flexing its muscles before the weak, and this is proof that physical strength is not everything. The defeat of Israel is possible and simple."
One Israeli official agreed with this opinion, and warned that rockets or missiles exploding in northern Israel could simulate the Carmel disaster.
"As a citizen, and a person familiar with firefighting services in the north, I am concerned," Lieutenant-Colonel (Res) Shavit Zalmi, who commands firefighters in the north, told Ynet Monday.
"We may face much more difficult and complex situations – any missile could cause a big blaze – and if the firefighting services don't receive resources the damage and civilian suffering will be greater."
Hanan Greenberg contributed to this report
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