The Middle East Newsline reports that Israel’s military expects the next war to include intense rocket and missile attacks on the Jewish state, which will emanate from Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Authority.

“We experienced thousands of rockets in the second Lebanon war,” Brig. Gen. Daniel Milo, commander of air defense forces, said. “We will experience more in the next war. This is clear to us.”

In the 34-day war that ended in August 2006, Hezbollah fired an estimated 4,500 short- and medium-range rockets into Israel.

In an address to a missile seminar at Tel Aviv University on Tuesday, Milo suggested that the military might not be more effective in a future war with Hezbollah, which is expected as early as mid-2007. He said the air force could not detect Katyusha or other short-range rockets concealed in underbrush or in bunkers.

“If the Katyusha is under the bushes or sand, no F-15 [fighter-jet] will find it,” Milo said.

Dr. Michael Widlanski, a journalist who holds a Ph.D. in Arabic language media assessment, has been carefully listening to the Hezbollah broadcasts in Arabic, and reports what Sheikh Naim Qassem, the deputy leader of the Hezbollah terror organization, declared this week, “We are prepared for the possibility of another adventure or the demand of American policy that might push the IDF [the Israeli Defense Force] in that direction.”

Widlanski explains that “adventure” is the term used by Hezbollah to describe an Israeli preemptive strike, and that Qassem’s claims “are taken seriously by Western analysts, including the director of Israeli military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin. Iran, Hezbollah and Syria, he believes, are preparing for war this summer.”

Qassem has been a deputy to Hassan Nasrallah, for more than a decade, and his remarks telegraph the policy of Hezbollah and its Iranian overlords. Widlanski reports that IDF analysts say Hezbollah has already replenished stocks of arms, explosives and rockets lost during last summer’s war with Israel. During that war, Hezbollah invaded Israel, killed several IDF soldiers and abducted two others, setting off several weeks of fighting. Israeli intelligence officials say the Lebanese-based and Iranian-run terror organization has brought in thousands of Katyusha and Grad rockets, like those fired at Israeli cities last summer. In addition, Hezbollah has replenished its stocks of anti-tank munitions, apparently intended to stave off a deep-penetration Israeli assault to uproot well-entrenched Hezbollah gunners in cement-lined tunnel complexes throughout southern Lebanon.

Widlanski recently conducted his own tour of the Israeli-Lebanese border and saw what he called “worrisome signs,” reporting that “although Hezbollah has not put armed men on the fence, its men and informers are deployed all along the area.

The new factor that Widlanski reports is that Fatah, led by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, has now aligned itself with Iran.

Widlanski quotes a source in Israeli intelligence, Brig. Gen. Shalom Harari, who estimates that 40 percent of the various Palestinian organizations were directly funded by Iran. “There is a growing strategic alliance between Iran and the radical Palestinian forces in the territories,” noted Harari during a recent briefing. “Iran is involved in supporting both the Islamic factions and Fatah as well. Today, at least 40 percent of Fatah’s different fighting groups are also paid by Hezbollah and Iran. Hamas thinks it can build a new southern Lebanon in Gaza, and this is what it is busy doing.”

One theory discussed in Israeli intelligence circles is that Iran is desperately trying to create a distraction, to divert attention from its nuclear development projects.

That would mean one thing: Israel would really be at war with Iran, not only with its neighboring Arab states.

This article appeared in the Philadelphia Bulletin, April 19th, 2007