Israel is entering an “Era of Fire” in which it is threatened by 170,000 rockets and missiles and in which the Syrian civil war has placed “30,000 global jihad terrorists” at its doorstep, Israel’s defense intelligence chief said in a speech Wednesday.
“Israel is surrounded by 360 degrees of actual enemies,” said Major General Aviv Kohavi at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).
Most of those foes have enough internal strife to make any imminent attack unlikely, he said. But if circumstances change, they have the means to threaten Israel more dramatically than ever, and both terrorist groups and governments continue to diversify their arsenals. “The line between a terror organization and a military organization continues to blur.”
The fight to topple dictator Bashar al-Assad has been a magnet for jihadis from throughout the world. At some point, they will leave that fight and pose new threats to Europe, North Africa and America. Many will seek to stay in the area, finding camps in Lebanon and Sinai.
“We are talking about extremists clinging to extremist ideologies – anti-Western and anti-Modern ideologies. We are talking about exceptional cruelty and brutality close to our borders,” Kohavi said.
Israel is developing medium-range missile defense systems, but the volume and sophistication of rockets controlled by Hizballah in Lebanon means not every rocket can be intercepted. “For the first time the enemy now has the ability to hit Israeli cities hard,” Kohavi said.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s ouster from power in Egypt and corresponding pressure on Hamas “is a serious opportunity” for Israel, he said. But new threats, such as Iran’s nuclear weapons program nearing completion and an increase in cyber-attacks, add to the challenges facing Israeli defense and intelligence officials.
“Cyberwarfare, in my humble opinion, will soon emerge as a more important discovery than gunpowder,” Kohavi said.