Thursday, July 20, 2006

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Israeli military chiefs warn of long haul in Lebanon

Rory McCarthy in Nahariya
Thursday July 20, 2006


Military analysts in Israel have begun to question whether the nine-day intense bombardment of Hizbullah positions in Lebanon is achieving its stated aim of destroying the militia's capabilities.

Hizbullah's Katyusha rockets are still hitting northern Israel at the rate of more than 100 a day and it still has a heavily armed presence on the border.

Israel's military chief warned today that the conflict with Lebanon could drag on longer than expected. 'The fighting in the north could last much longer,' Lieutenant General Dan Halutz said in a letter to his troops yesterday. 'We will operate for as long as necessary until security is returned to the state of Israel.'

**so much for another "cakewalk". Of course, you would have to have believed the original claim that they were only staying for a limited time to really be surprised by that **

Israeli forces and Hizbullah gunmen had clashed on the Lebanese side of the border, the Israeli army said. Three Israeli soldiers were killed and three wounded, according to al-Jazeera television. Hizbullah said it had destroyed two Israeli tanks near Maroun al-Ras.

The Israeli military said it had struck 200 'Katyusha rocket launching sites' since what it calls 'Operation Change of Direction' began last week.

'So far we destroyed some 50% of Hizbullah's capabilities,' said the transport minister, Shaul Mofaz. 'Until now, with the start of the ninth day, the operation went as scheduled, and more time is needed in order to target Hizbullah's capability. It is impossible to carry out an operation of the kind without casualties.'

But military analysts in Israel's leading newspapers raised the prospect of big troop incursions into Lebanon. Just a few days ago, the same analysts predicted the operation would need only another week or two.

Now they are describing it as the second Lebanon war, bringing back memories of the 1982 invasion and subsequent 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon, which is regarded as Israel's biggest military mistake.

'For eight days, the Israeli Defence Forces have been pounding Lebanon and dropping thousands of tonnes of bombs on it, yet Hizbullah remains the same intransigent rival as before. It is showing no signs of breaking,' Amos Harel wrote in the Haaretz newspaper yesterday.

Significant civilian casualties in northern Israel, or among the military, could lessen the considerable public support within Israel for the war.

In the Ma'ariv newspaper, Amir Rappaport warned the fight would escalate. 'The second Lebanon war will be accompanied by tough battles on the ground. We hope that there will not be many more casualties, but yesterday's hard fighting was certainly only the beginning.'

Alex Fishman, in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, said: 'The machine that Hizbullah spent six years building now has to be disassembled one screw at a time.'"

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