Monday, August 21, 2006

The Big Switch....

Many of you may have noticed that there are not as many posts here as there were previously. I will be switching to a paid blog version with another blog-host, and this will happen over the next week or so, with all of the features you see here hosted at the other site.

This site will remain open as archives. Please feel free to visit the site below, and revisit, as the features and links from this site are added there.

thank you,
Evilgrin :)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Israel defiant on Lebanon raid, prepares for 'next round'

Israel defiant on Lebanon raid, prepares for 'next round'
by Yana Dlugy

Israel warned that it would keep up raids against Hezbollah to prevent the Shiite militia from getting weapons from abroad and said it would prepare for the "next round" of war.

Israel also said that it would not allow the Lebanese army to fully deploy along the volatile Israeli-Lebanese border until the arrival of an international force in the area.

"We need to thwart any attempt to pass weapons from Syria to Hezbollah," Trade and Industry Minister Eli Yishai said before the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem Sunday.

"Any such activity needs a counter measure," he said, referring to a Saturday commando raid by Israeli troops in eastern Lebanon, which Israel said was aimed at preventing alleged arms smuggling to Hezbollah from Syria.

Lebanon and the United Nations slammed the raid as a violation of the UN-brokered ceasefire which took effect last Monday to end 34 days of warfare, but Israeli officials remained defiant.

"We have not violated UN resolution 1701," said Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog, a member of the security cabinet.

"The resolution has very clear directives on limiting the transfer of weapons from Syria and Iran into Lebanon. The directives speak of a full embargo. As long as it is not enforced, we have the full right to act against it."

Defense Minister Amir Peretz said the Jewish state would examine mistakes that it made during the Lebanon war in preparation for the "next round" of war.

"We will examine the issues that have been pointed out as failures," he told the cabinet meeting. "We will put everything on the table. Our duty is to prepare for the next round," he said without elaborating.

The Israeli raid near the Hezbollah stronghold of Baalbek was the first major operation since the UN ceasefire took hold on the ground. An Israeli officer was killed in the raid.

"It is the Lebanese who are to be blamed for allowing the weapons transfer... The one responsible is (Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad) Siniora. We should give him an ultimatum -- either he stops the weapons transfer or we target his infrastructure," Yishai said.

Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit, a hardliner who like Herzog and Yishai is a member of Israel's security cabinet, echoed the statements.

"The Lebanese are yet to carry out the resolution and are saying that Hezbollah will not be disarmed and that it can hide weapons. What are we supposed to do? Sit idly and wait for Hezbollah to rearm?"

UN Resolution 1701 calls, among other demands, for Hezbollah to disarm, something that the Shiite militant group has so far refused to do, maintaining its right to fight as long as Israeli troops are in Lebanon.

Israeli intelligence estimates that Hezbollah had up to 13,000 rockets before the start of the Lebanon war, with more than 4,000 fired by the Shiite militia into Israel during the offensive.

Israel accuses Syria and Iran of providing Hezbollah with weapons, a charge denied by both countries which say they offer moral support only.

Israel has said that many of the weapons, including the anti-tank missiles that proved devastating to the Jewish state's military during the offensive, had come from Russia, a charge that the Kremlin has denied.

A report in Israel's second-largest Maariv daily on Sunday said that during a recent visit to Moscow, Israeli officials showed Russians documents that allegedly prove that Russian arms exports destined for the Syrian army were ending up in Hezbollah's hands.

An Israeli foreign ministry official meanwhile urged France to reconsider its decision to limit its participation in a UN force in Lebanon to 200 soldiers, which sparked "astonishment and confusion" in the Jewish state.

"We hope that France has not said its last word," the official said on condition of anonymity. "If not, its decision cannot but contribute to bring us a step back, with the rearming of Hezbollah, which will wait for an opportune moment to restart its hostilities."

France had joined the United States in crafting the UN resolution and as Lebanon's former colonial power was expected to take the lead in putting together a robust international force of up to 15,000 to boost the current UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Bush's final gamble: giving Iraq a dictator?

Andrew Sullivan

The news was buried in a New York Times story last week but it confirmed what others in the Washington chattering classes have been observing lately.

The context is that the White House has been inviting outsiders in to the Oval Office to discuss strategy in Iraq. The new chief of staff Josh Bolten has apparently been trying to pierce the intellectual cocoon in which the president comfortably resides. Bush family consigliere James Baker has already been asked to rescue the president’s failed Iraq policy.

But last week the new nugget: an anonymous “military affairs expert” attended a White House briefing and reported: “Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy. Everybody in the administration is being quite circumspect, but you can sense their own concern that this is drifting away from democracy.”

Indeed. The number of civilian casualties in what can now only be called Iraq’s civil war grows with each month. The thousands of innocent Iraqis killed in the past month dwarfs the civilian losses in Lebanon and Israel. The attempt by Nouri al-Maliki’s government to put down sectarian warfare in Baghdad has failed, requiring more US troops in the capital and thus abandoning the heartland of the insurgency, Anbar, to the enemy. General John Abizaid, head of American forces in the Middle East, told the Senate earlier this month that violence in Iraq is “probably as bad as I’ve seen it, in Baghdad in particular”.

Last Wednesday more grim statistics emerged. The number of roadside bomb attacks are at an all-time high. In July 1,666 “improvised explosive devices” exploded and 959 were discovered before they went off. In January 1,454 bombs exploded or were found. That’s the wrong direction, and it’s after an elected unity government has been installed.

A Pentagon official anonymously told the press last week: “The insurgency has got worse by almost all measures, with insurgent attacks at historically high levels. The insurgency has more public support and is demonstrably more capable in numbers of people active and in its ability to direct violence than at any point in time.”

Remember Dick Cheney’s comments about the insurgency being in its “last throes”? Those words have become as credible as the president’s denial of torture as an interrogation policy authorised by the White House.

There comes a point at which even Bush’s platinum-strength levels of denial have to bow to reality. That point may be now. Why else would he be reading Albert Camus’s existentialist masterpiece, The Stranger, in Texas?

Recently Bush has been wondering why the Shi’ites in southern Iraq have displayed such ingratitude to the man who liberated them from Saddam. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to him that a populace terrorised by sectarian murder, nonexistent government and near anarchy might feel angry at the man who rid them of dictatorship but then refused to provide a minimal level of security for the aftermath. And so, the frustrated born-again neocon in Bush may be ceding to the caucus of those dubbed the “to-hell-with-them” hawks.

This conservative caucus never liked the neocon argument for removing Saddam. They didn’t like nation building and didn’t believe that Iraqis were capable of democracy. They wanted to remove a WMD threat but, most of all, they wanted to strike terror into the heart of the enemy by showing what US military might could do.

Depose Saddam, remove the weapons, install a client dictator and leave as much rubble behind: that was the game plan. It would deter the Iranians and leave a light military footprint. It had Donald Rumsfeld written all over it and it helps explain a lot about the Bush administration’s dogged refusal to add more troops in the first few months after the invasion.

Rumsfeld and Cheney may well be the key proponents of this argument. It is, of course, stupid. When you are dealing with a generational struggle to defang Islamist extremism, your central weapon is winning over moderate Muslims and Arabs. You do the reverse by bombing a country into chaos and then leaving.

When one of the biggest threats in a terrorised world are failed states in the Middle East, why create another one in Iraq? When western unity and intelligence sharing is essential, why pursue a strategy that is almost guaranteed to divide allies and unite all Muslims under the extremist banner?

What’s done is done, however. But the Bush administration knows that its Iraq debacle is central to its legacy and future. What’s interesting in the latest polls — in the middle of the Israel-Lebanon war and the foiled terror plot that shut Heathrow — is how Iraq is still more important to Americans than the more general issue of terrorism.

Pollster John Zogby opined: “President Bush’s numbers mainly reflect the country’s thinking on the war in Iraq, and most people have made up their minds that the war overall has not been worth the loss of American lives. Terrorism is an important issue to Americans, but when it comes to judging Bush’s presidency, their decision is based largely on Iraq.”

Pessimism about Iraq has deepened on every front since the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Last week’s Pew poll found that 63% believed that the US was “losing ground” in preventing a civil war in Iraq. Among Republicans, the numbers have dropped 16% on this question in the past two months alone. More worryingly, a clear majority now believes that Bush is not a “strong leader” and “not trustworthy”, two key qualities Bush once had commanding support on.

And anti-incumbent feeling is stronger than at any time since the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. One poll last week had Bush’s ratings at a new low of 34%. Crunch time approaches.

If the Republicans are to recover by November 2008, let alone November 2006, they have to get Iraq behind them. They have to show progress or provide some credible strategy for victory that is not simply more of the gruelling same. Bush doesn’t have one.

The to-hell-with-them hawks do. And they’re gaining traction. Before too long a compliant US-backed dictator may not seem like such a bad option in Mesopotamia. And I feel Rumsfeld will be telling himself he knew it all along.

Women assaulted, raped by military recruiters

Women assaulted, raped by military recruiters
Aug 20, 2006, 04:26

More than 100 young women who expressed interest in joining the military in the past year were preyed upon sexually by their recruiters. Women were raped on recruiting office couches, assaulted in government cars and groped en route to entrance exams.

A six-month Associated Press investigation found that more than 80 military recruiters were disciplined last year for sexual misconduct with potential enlistees. The cases occurred across all branches of the military and in all regions of the country.

"This should never be allowed to happen," said one 18-year-old victim. "The recruiter had all the power. He had the uniform. He had my future. I trusted him."

At least 35 Army recruiters, 18 Marine Corps recruiters, 18 Navy recruiters and 12 Air Force recruiters were disciplined for sexual misconduct or other inappropriate behavior with potential enlistees in 2005, according to records obtained by the AP under dozens of Freedom of Information Act requests. That's significantly more than the handful of cases disclosed in the past decade.

The AP also found:

* The Army, which accounts for almost half of the military, has had 722 recruiters accused of rape and sexual misconduct since 1996.
* Across all services, one out of 200 frontline recruiters � the ones who deal directly with young people � was disciplined for sexual misconduct last year.
* Some cases of improper behavior involved romantic relationships, and sometimes those relationships were initiated by the women.
* Most recruiters found guilty of sexual misconduct are disciplined administratively, facing a reduction in rank or forfeiture of pay; military and civilian prosecutions are rare.
* The increase in sexual misconduct incidents is consistent with overall recruiter wrongdoing, which has increased from just over 400 cases in 2004 to 630 cases in 2005, according to a General Accounting Office report released this week.

The Pentagon has committed more than $1.5 billion to recruiting efforts this year. Defense Department spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke insisted that each of the services takes the issue of sexual misconduct by recruiters "very seriously and has processes in place to identify and deal with those members who act inappropriately."

In the Army, 53 recruiters were charged with misconduct last year. Recruiting spokesman S. Douglas Smith said the Army has put much energy into training its staff to avoid these problems.

"To have 53 allegations in a year, while it is 53 more than we would want, is not indicative of the entire command of 8,000 recruiters," he said. "We take this very seriously and we take appropriate action as necessary to discipline these people."


The Associated Press generally does not name victims in sexual assault cases. For this story, the AP interviewed victims in their homes and perpetrators in jail, read police and court accounts of assaults and in one case portions of a victim's journal.

A pattern emerged. The sexual misconduct almost always takes place in recruiting stations, recruiters apartments or government vehicles. The victims are typically between 16 and 18 years old, and they usually are thinking about enlisting. They usually meet the recruiters at their high schools, but sometimes at malls or recruiting offices.

"We had been drinking, yes. And we went to the recruiting station at about midnight," begins one girl's story.

Tall and slim, her long hair sweeping down her back, this 18-year-old from Ukiah, Calif., hides her face in her hands as she describes the night when Marine Corps recruiter Sgt. Brian Fukushima climbed into her sleeping bag on the floor of the station and took off her pants. Two other recruiters were having sex with two of her friends in the same room.

"I don't like to talk about it. I don't like to think about it," she says, her voice muffled and breaking. "He got into my sleeping bag, unbuttoned my pants, and he started, well ..."

Her voice trails off, and she is quiet for a moment. "I had a freak-out session and just passed out. When I woke up I was sick and ashamed. My clothes were all over the floor."

Fukushima was convicted of misconduct in a military court after other young women reported similar assaults. He left the service with a less than honorable discharge last fall.

His military attorney, Capt. James Weirick, said Fukushima is "sorry that he let his family down and the Marine Corps down. It was a lapse in judgment."

Shedrick Hamilton uses the same phrase to describe his own actions that landed him in Oneida Correctional Facility in upstate New York for 15 months for having sex with a 16-year-old high school student he met while working as a Marine Corps recruiter.

Hamilton said the victim had dropped her pants in his office as a prank a few weeks earlier, and that on this day she reached over and caressed his groin while he was driving her to a recruiting event.

"I pulled over and asked her to climb into the back seat," he said. "I should have pushed her away. I was the adult in the situation. I should have put my foot down, called her parents."

As a result, he was convicted of third-degree rape, and left the service with an other-than-honorable discharge. He wipes the collar of his prison jumpsuit across his cheek, smearing tears that won't stop.

"I literally kick myself ... every day. It hurts. It hurts a lot. As much as I pray, as much as I work on it in counseling, I still can't repair the pain that I caused a girl, her family, my family, my kids. It's very hard to deal with," he says, dropping his head. "It's very, very hard to deal with."

In Gainesville, Fla., a 20-year-old woman told this story: Walking into an Army recruiting station last summer, she was greeted by Sgt. George Kirkman, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound soldier. Kirkman is 41.

He was friendly and encouraging, but told her she might be a bit too heavy. He asked if she wanted to go to the gym with him. She agreed, and he drove her to his apartment complex.

There, he walked her to his apartment, pulled out a laptop, and suggested she take a basic recruiting aptitude test. Afterward, Kirkman said he needed to measure her. Twice. He said she had to take her pants off. And he attacked her.

Kirkman, who did not respond to repeated requests for an interview, pleaded no contest to sexual battery in January and is on probation and a registered sexual offender. He's still in the military, working now as a clerk in the Jacksonville, Fla., Army recruiting office.

Not all of the victims are young women. Former Navy recruiter Joseph Sampy, 27, of Jeanerette, La., is serving a 12-year sentence for molesting three male recruits.

"He did something wrong, something terrible to people who were the most vulnerable," State District Judge Lori Landry said before handing down the sentence in July, 2005. "He took advantage of his authority."

One of Sampy's victims is suing him and the Navy for $1.25 million. The trial is scheduled for next spring.


Sometimes these incidents are indisputable, forcible rapes.

"He did whatever he pleased," said one victim who was 17 at the time. "... People in uniform used to make me feel safe. Now they make me feel nervous."

Other sexual misconduct is more nuanced. Recruiters insist the victims were interested in them, and sometimes the victims agree. Sometimes they even dated.

"I was persuaded into doing something that I didn't necessarily want to do, but I did it willingly," said Kelly Chase, now a Marine Corps combat photographer, whose testimony helped convict a recruiter of sexual misconduct last year.

Former Navy recruiter Paul Sistrunk, a plant supervisor in Conehatta, Miss., who had an affair with a potential recruit in 1995, says their relationship was entirely consensual.

She was 18, an adult; he was 26 and married.

"Things happen, you know?" says Sistrunk, who opted for an other-than-honorable discharge rather than face court-martial. "Morally, what I did was wrong, but legally, I don't think so."

A nine-year veteran of the Navy, Sistrunk lost his pension and health benefits. His victim, who discovered during a medical exam at boot camp that she had contracted herpes, unsuccessfully tried to sue the federal government.

"In my case," said Sistrunk, "I was flirted with, and flirting, well, that's something I hadn't seen a lot of until I became a recruiter. I had no power over her. I really didn't."

Kimberly Lonsway, an expert in sexual assault and workplace discrimination in San Luis Obispo, Calif., said "even if there isn't overt violence, the reality is that these recruiters really do hold the keys to the future for these women, and a 17-year-old girl often has a very different understanding of the situation than a 23-year-old recruiter."

"There's a power dynamic here that's obviously very sensitive," agreed Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, a group that studies military policy.

"Let's face it, these guys are handsome in their uniform, they're mature, they give a lot of attention to these girls, and as recruiters they do a lot of the same things that guys do when they want to appeal to girls. There's a very fine line there, and it can be very hard to maintain a professional approach."

Weirick, the Marine Corps defense attorney who has represented several recruiters on rape and sexual misconduct charges, said it's a problem that will probably never entirely go away.

"It's difficult because of the nature of nature," he said. "It's hard to put it in another way, you know? It's usually a consensual relationship or dating type of thing."

When asked if victims feel this way, he said, "It's really a victimless crime other than the institution of the Marine Corps. It's institutional integrity we're protecting, by not allowing this to happen."

Anita Sanchez, director of communications at the Miles Foundation, a national advocacy group for victims of violence in the military, bristles at the idea that the enlistees, even if they flirt or ask to date recruiters, are willingly having sex with them.

"You have a recruiter who can enable you to join the service or not join the service. That has life-changing implications for you as a high school student or college student," she said. "If she does not do this her life will be seriously impacted. Instead of getting training and an education, she might end up a dishwasher."

Ethan Walker, who spent eight years in the Marine Corps including a stint as a recruiter from 1998 to 2000, said he was warned.

"They told us at recruiter school that girls, 15, 16, are going to come up to you, they're going to flirt with you, they're going to do everything in their power to get you in bed. But if you do it you're breaking the law," he said.

Even so, he said he was initially taken aback when he set up a table at a high school and had girls telling him he looked sexy and handing him their telephone numbers.

"All that is, you have to remind yourself, is that there's jail bait, a quick way to get in trouble, a quick way to dishonor the service," he said.

All of the recruiters the AP spoke with, including Walker, said they were routinely alone in their offices and cars with girls. Walker said he heard about sleepovers at other recruiting stations, and there was no rule against it. There didn't need to be a rule, he said. The lines were clear: Recruiters do not sleep with enlistees.

"Any recruiter that would try to claim that, 'Oh, it's consensual,' they are lying, they are lying through their teeth," he said. "The recruiter has all the power in these situations."


Although the Uniform Code of Military Justice bars recruiters from having sex with potential recruits, it also states that age 16 is the legal age of consent. This means that if a recruiter is caught having sex with a 16-year-old, and he can prove it was consensual, he will likely only face an administrative reprimand.

But not under new rules set by the Indiana Army National Guard.

There, a much stricter policy, apparently the first of its kind in the country, was instituted last year after seven victims came forward to charge National Guard recruiter Sgt. Eric Vetesy with rape and assault.

"We didn't just sit on our hands and say, 'Well, these things happen, they're wrong, and we'll try to prevent it.' That's a bunch of bull," said Lt. Col. Ivan Denton, commander of the Indiana Guard's recruiting battalion.

Now, the 164 Army National Guard recruiters in Indiana follow a "No One Alone" policy. Male recruiters cannot be alone in offices, cars, or anywhere else with a female enlistee. If they are, they risk immediate disciplinary action. Recruiters also face discipline if they hear of another recruiter's misconduct and don't report it.

At their first meeting, National Guard applicants, their parents and school officials are given wallet-sized "Guard Cards" advising them of the rules. It includes a telephone number to call if they experience anything unsafe or improper.

Denton said the policy does more than protect enlistees.

"It's protecting our recruiters as well," he said.

The result?

"We've had a lot fewer problems," said Denton. "It's almost like we're changing the culture in our recruiting."

IDF plans an assassination-- Israel is committed to blocking arms and killing Nasrallah

Israel is committed to blocking arms and killing Nasrallah
By Steven Erlanger The New York Times

Published: August 20, 2006

JERUSALEM Despite a cease-fire agreement, Israel intends to do its best to keep Iran and Syria from rearming Hezbollah and to kill the militia's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, says a senior Israeli commander.

International commitments to exclude the Hezbollah militia from southern Lebanon and to disarm it already seem hollow, said the commander, who had a well-placed view of the war and its planning and has extensive experience in Lebanon.

The officer would only speak on the condition of anonymity in an interview on Friday. But, speaking one day before commandos carried out a raid that Israeli officials said was to disrupt arms shipments for Hezbollah from Syria and Iran, he was explicit that Israel would continue to seek out and block any such attempts. He also emphasized that, despite criticism from the Israeli public and even troops of the performance of the Army and government, he considered the threat and the fighting ability of Hezbollah to have been severely diminished.

Furthermore, he made it clear that Sheik Nasrallah remained a target as the leader of a group that Israel and the United States have labeled terrorist. "There's only one solution for him," he said. At another point, he said simply, "This man must die."

Mr. Nasrallah is regarded as a hero in much of the Muslim world. The pro-Syrian president of Lebanon, Émile Lahoud, praised him and Hezbollah this week for what he called their victory over Israel.

Israel and the United States, however, view Hezbollah as a tool of non-Arab Iran, which created it, and of Syria, which supports and helps to supply it, rather than being loyal to Lebanon and its multireligious government.

Israel, the officer said, views Hezbollah as "Iran's western front" and, regardless of how poorly the new United Nations forces may perform, he argued, Israel will benefit from new international support for the extension of Lebanese sovereignty to the Israeli border, made most visible in the deployment of the Lebanese Army.

"I don't care about the capability of the Lebanese Army," he said. "What is more important, and here I'm not speaking for the Israeli government, is the understanding that the Lebanese government took control of southern Lebanon. Now we can deal with them as a country and a government, and speak and compromise. This is the huge change this operation created."

Hezbollah, he said, is no longer just Israel's problem, and "the world understands that we are helping to stop the influence of Iran," at least in the longer term.

The army was planning on 15 days of air war before any ground forces were considered, he said. "We didn't want to do any ground assault and thought we could create the conditions for a cease-fire without a major ground assault."

But the army miscalculated, and Hezbollah did not break. The air force failed to kill Sheik Nasrallah or to destroy the Hezbollah leadership. The army was also surprised, he said, by the sheer numbers of the advanced antitank missiles Hezbollah possessed, including Russian Metis-M and Kornet missiles that were sold to Syria and passed on to Hezbollah, he said, and which caused most of Israel's military casualties.

The United Nations was also "too soft and too late" in negotiating a cease-fire, and Israel then felt it had to act to stop the short-range Katyusha rockets that the army and the government knew, he insisted, could not be stopped with air power alone. "We tried to postpone it until we had no other choice," the officer said.

The army asked the government for a five-day ground operation to reach the Litani River and was ready on Monday, Aug. 7, the commander said. "The government asked us to wait because of the negotiations, and we waited Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and most of Friday," he said. Only then, when the negotiations at the United Nations were going against Israel, did Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz order the expanded ground operation, which had only been approved by the cabinet on Aug. 9.

In the end, the army had two days of fighting, not five, before the cease-fire took effect last Monday at 8 a.m.

Israelis have been extremely critical of Mr. Olmert, Mr. Peretz and, to some degree, the army leadership. Israelis overwhelmingly supported the decision to go to war against Hezbollah after its cross-border raid on July 12, when it captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight people.

But the war dragged on, the government seemed indecisive and Hezbollah was fighting well. Israelis felt there was too much reliance on air power, the ground war was too long delayed and then too modest, and the cease-fire agreement did not even secure the soldiers' release or guarantee the disarming of Hezbollah.

The lifeline of the three-month-old government appears shortened, and the future of the chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, is uncertain.

Still, the Israeli Army feels it fought well within the limits set for it, and the commander insisted that the Israelis won every battle with Hezbollah, despite its good training and equipment and the underground tunnels, barracks and command posts it constructed with Iranian help.

"We believe it was important to stop the war with Hezbollah understanding that we can beat them anywhere, any time, and we did that," he said. "I believe it will change the situation for a long time."

Israelis are spoiled by the 1967 and 1973 wars, he said, but there is no decisive victory against terrorism. In Washington, too, he said, "I believe the military and security professionals understand what we did, and they are not disappointed."

The Israeli Army scored two important achievements, he confirmed. First, good intelligence allowed it to knock out up to 80 percent of Hezbollah's medium- and long-range missile launchers in the first two days of the air war, preventing Sheik Nasrallah from firing a longer-range Iranian Zelzal missile on Tel Aviv.

More important, Israel was able to destroy launchers within 45 seconds to a minute after they were used, which no other army in the world can do with regularity, he said. Employing drones, radar, precision weapons and artillery, Israel could track a launching and bomb it.

But it could not do that with the thousands of short-range Katyusha rockets. They are small and easily portable, can be fired from buildings or simple metal tripods or even fired with a simple timer.

There are other tactical lessons, the commander said: more armor plating underneath tanks, better supplies, more money to be spent on reserves and training.

"But in the long run, if we see Hezbollah rearming itself and running southern Lebanon, I believe the next round is coming."

After all, "this is the Middle East," the officer said. "One war ends, and the next one is already at the door."

In the occupied West Bank on Saturday, Israel arrested the Palestinian deputy prime minister, Nasser al-Shaer of Hamas, at his home. Israeli has arrested more than two dozen Hamas cabinet ministers and legislators in the West Bank, including the parliament's speaker, Aziz Dweik, since late June, when Hamas took part in the capture of an Israeli soldier.

Also on Saturday, an Israeli soldier was killed at a checkpoint east of Nablus by an armed Palestinian, who was killed in turn by other soldiers, the Israeli Army said.

IDF DRESSED AS LEBANESE SOLDIERS--Israel raid violates cease-fire, UN says

International Herald Tribune

Israel raid violates cease-fire, UN says
Agence France-Presse, The Associated Press, The New York Times

Published: August 20, 2006

BOUDAI, Lebanon Israel's weekend commando raid on a Hezbollah stronghold deep in Lebanon has put the fragile Middle East truce to its biggest test so far, with Lebanon threatening to halt the deployment of its army to the south and the United Nations chief, Kofi Annan, labeling the operation a breach of the cease-fire.

Helicopter-borne Israeli commandos landed near the Hezbollah stronghold of Baalbek on Saturday and engaged in a lengthy firefight. The Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, called the incursion a "flagrant violation" of the week- old, UN-brokered cease-fire.

The office of the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, issued a statement late Saturday saying the action violated the hard-won agreement.

"The secretary general is deeply concerned about a violation by the Israeli side of the cessation of hostilities," said the statement, issued by a UN spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric.

"All such violations of Security Council Resolution 1701 endanger the fragile calm that was reached after much negotiation."

In Washington, the White House declined to criticize the raid, noting that Israel said it had acted in reaction to arms smuggling into Lebanon and that the UN resolution calls for the prevention of resupplying Hezbollah with weapons.

"The incident underscores the importance of quickly deploying the enhanced Unifil," a White House spokeswoman, Jeanie Mamo, said, referring to a force of 15,000 UN peacekeeping troops called for by the cease-fire agreement to police the truce.

The Israelis said that "the aim of the operation had been to disrupt terrorist activities against Israel and to prevent arms from being transported to Hezbollah from Iran and Syria." Any such resupply effort would itself violate the cease-fire resolution passed last Monday by the UN Security Council.

The raid took place overnight under the cover of sonic booms from Israeli jets flying overhead, which occur often over Lebanon. But this time they provided cover to mask the sound of helicopters bringing in the commando unit and two Humvee vehicles. Villagers said the soldiers were dressed in Lebanese Army uniforms.

The success of the effort was a matter of dispute.

One Israeli special operations officer was killed and two commandos were wounded, one seriously, but an Israeli Army spokesman in Jerusalem said the mission's "objectives had been attained in full."

Villagers said otherwise.

"They failed completely," said Sadiq Hamdi, 36, a scrap-iron dealer. "They were still on the road when the Hezbollah came upon them. They did not take 1 percent of what they were trying to do."

The Israeli Army said it would continue such raids until "proper monitoring bodies are established on the Lebanese borders," another task for the UN forces in Lebanon. On Friday, a top Israeli commander warned that Israel would interdict any resupply efforts and vowed to kill the Hezbollah leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.

Lebanon's defense minister, Elias Murr, said that if Israel carried out any more raids, he would ask the cabinet to halt the Lebanese Army's deployment in the south.

That deployment - now being bolstered by UN peacekeeping forces - is the cornerstone of the cease-fire, and ending it could end the fragile truce between Israel and Hezbollah that has held since Monday.

"We have put the matter forward in a serious manner and the UN delegation was understanding of the seriousness of the situation," Murr said. "We are awaiting an answer."

Suleiman Chamas, 38, the mayor of this village, surrounded by tobacco fields about 16 kilometers, or 10 miles, west of Baalbek, gave the following account: Disguised commandos landed in the eastern foothills of the Mount Lebanon range, loaded into Humvees and drove east on a road called Ayoun Semman, where they encountered a roadblock manned by local Hezbollah fighters.

The commandos shouted in Arabic, "Peace be with you, we're one of yours," and tried to drive past the roadblock without stopping.

The fighters started shooting and gave chase. The commandos turned off onto a dirt road, and a gun battle broke out, drawing more villagers.

"The whole village came down, both those who could shoot and those who cannot," Chamas said.

About 40 minutes later, fighter jets and helicopters fired rockets and evacuated the commandos, leaving two fresh craters in the rich red Bekaa Valley soil.

Left behind were large bloodstains, syringes and surgical masks, indicating casualties, and what the villagers believed was some kind of device to guide the helicopters in. Villagers said there were no casualties on the Lebanese side.

Yahya Ali, 30, wearing a red shirt and carrying an AK-47 assault rifle, was one of a number of villagers who said the Israeli commandos were dressed like Lebanese soldiers.

He said they were wearing the mostly green woodland camouflage uniforms that are standard issue for the Lebanese Army, similar to what was used until recently by the U.S. Army, along with olive-green flak jackets and green helmets, also standard issue here.

Israeli soldiers wear a brownish uniform in a single color along with brown body armor and helmets.

Ali said he could see the uniforms clearly because in the rescue the helicopters and Humvees had bright lights turned on.

The boldness of the raid in the midst of the cease-fire suggested that the Israelis might have had some major objective in mind, perhaps the rescue of their two abducted comrades or the capture of a major Hezbollah figure.

Boudai is the home village of Sheik Mohammed Yazbeck, a senior Hezbollah leader in the Bekaa Valley and a member of the group's Shura Council. But the mayor and others say he is rarely here these days.

The village had been the scene Friday of a big funeral for a Hezbollah guerrilla, Mahmoud Ahmed Asef, who was killed fighting in Bint Jbail. Such funerals sometimes draw leaders.

In Israel, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Mark Regev, said, "If the Syrians and the Iranians continue to arm Hezbollah in violation of the resolution, Israel is entitled to act to defend the principle of the arms embargo."