Saturday, August 12, 2006

Israeli waffling on new UN resolution begins before it's even been signed
Israel may re-enter Lebanon if UN force fails: army
Fri Aug 11, 2006 11:36 AM ET

By Adam Entous

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel will reserve the right to re-enter southern Lebanon if a proposed U.N. force is unable to stop Hizbollah fighters from returning to the border and resuming rocket attacks, a top military official said on Friday.

"We cannot sit aside and allow something like that to happen again," Brigadier General Yossi Kuperwasser, until recently head of the army's intelligence research department, told Reuters.

Major powers are close to agreement on a U.N. resolution aimed at halting Israel's month-old war with Hizbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

The latest compromise proposal calls for a phased withdrawal by Israeli troops as the Lebanese army deploys in the south, controlled by Hizbollah.

At the same time, the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, would be reinforced by French and other troops, perhaps as many as 15,000.

As part of the deal, Hizbollah would pull out from south of the Litani River, 13 miles from the Israeli border.

Asked if the proposed U.N. force would be able to push Hizbollah back and prevent rocket attacks on Israel, Kuperwasser said: "It's a real challenge."

He said Hizbollah had mobilized the equivalent of an infantry division, well-trained in guerrilla tactics and armed with state-of-the-art weapons.

Hizbollah's ability to inflict casualties on Israeli forces and keep up rocket strikes has won the admiration of many in the Arab world. Israeli officials say Hizbollah relies on using Lebanese civilians as human shields.

"If Hizbollah is going to redeploy in the south despite the presence of the international force or in spite of the presence of the Lebanese army, we can consider other ways of making the situation change," Kuperwasser said.

Asked if Israel could send its own troops back into southern Lebanon, he said: "That's one of the things that might happen if this force is not going to be effective ... This is a possibility."

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