|IDF Takes Strongholds, Warns Launch-Site Villages to Evacuate
Saturday, July 22, 2006 / 26 Tammuz 5766
Ten Lebanese villages that rockets were launched from have been order to leave their homes immediately as the IDF continues to comb Lebanon for munitions caches, hideouts, bunkers and launch-sites.
Residents of the ten additional villages from which rockets have been fired were warned to evacuate their homes by 7 PM Saturday ahead of IAF air strikes.
The Meron A-Ras area of southern Lebanon has been taken by IDF ground troops. The Hizbullah bunkers in, around and below the village have all been raided and the IDF has now stationed troops in the village. Security forces in the area report scores of Katyusha shells, missile storage areas and missile-launchers, which were concealed in the village's mosque.
Over the weekend, air strikes in Lebanon destroyed a building described as 'Hizbullah Headquarters,' a half-dozen missile launchers, communications lines and a cache of long-range missiles, anti-tank missiles and guns. Several television broadcast facilities were also hit, presumably due to their complicity in broadcasting Hizbullah's Al-Manar television channel.
More than 1,800 targets have been hit by Israel's Air Force since the beginning of the Reengagement War.
Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said the air strikes will continue as long as they have to. "It takes time to hit at terrorism," he told reporters Friday. "We will fight terror wherever it is, because if we do not fight it, it will fight us - if we don't reach it, it will reach us."
Halutz added that Hizbullah has made a practice of using mosques to hide the Katyusha missile launchers.
Thousands of Israelis received their Tzav Shmoneh emergency call-up orders Thursday evening. Most will be taking the place of members of the standing army who will be headed into Lebanon in what the IDF brass is calling a limited ground invasion. As a result, in addition to the two million Israelis spending the Sabbath away from their northern homes or in bomb shelters, thousands more made due without their fathers and sons.
Responding to the extensive coverage of recent IDF casualities in both the print and televised media, IDF Commander of the North Maj.-Gen. Udi Adam urged Israelis to refrain from shedding tears for the fallen until the war is won.
"We have to change our way of thinking," he said. "Human life is important but we are at war and it costs human lives. We won't count the dead at present, only at the end. We'll cry for the dead and will encourage their brothers in arms. There are more places like Meron A-Ras, and unfortunately we'll have to reach them."
Asked the common question voiced by Israel's media - whether the IDF will become "bogged down in the Lebanese mud" - Maj.-Gen. Adam urged Israelis exercise patience. "This is not a short story," he warned, "but it will not be never-ending either."
Meanwhile, in his weekly radio address, US President George W. Bush reassured those concerned that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's upcoming visit is intended to pressure Israel that Rice would "make it clear that resolving the crisis demands confronting the terrorist group that launched the attacks and the nations that support it."
Bush, referring to Syria and Iran, added: "Their actions threaten the entire Middle East and stand in the way of resolving the current crisis and bringing lasting peace to this troubled region."
MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz), who is advocating immediate negotiations with Hizbullah, responded to Bush's statements that forcing an early cease-fire would not be prudent, saying, "We must not turn the IDF soldiers into Bush's cannon fodder."
||Thousands of IDF soldiers have been called to active reserve duty, thereby freeing up compulsory service soldiers for redeployment to the north. |
|Defense Minister Amir Peretz has authorized the continuation of the ground forces incursion into southern Lebanon, as elite units continue to operate on the ground, near Israel's northern border, seeking to push Hizbullah back while destroying the terror organizations infrastructure.
FIVE EGOZ SOLDIERS KILLED IN FIGHTING
In heavy fighting in the Maroun a-Ras area near Moshav Avivim last Thursday (20 July), five IDF soldiers fell in the line of duty. It was originally reported that four soldiers were killed but early Sunday morning; the IDF Spokesperson's Office confirmed the body of a fifth member of the elite Sayeret Egoz was located, officially raising the death toll to five. Also operating in southern Lebanon are paratroopers, tanks and other specialized forces.
Some 5,000 reservists were activated with tzav-8 emergency call-up orders on Friday. The reservists will be deployed in areas throughout Judea and Samaria, freeing younger compulsory duty soldiers to join the effort against Hizbullah in the north.
HIZBULLAH IS A FORMIDABLE ENEMY
The battle will be a difficult one since Hizbullah has had six years to prepare, since then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak ordered the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon. The area is mined and there are bombs powerful enough to destroy the underbellies of Israel's tanks, as was seen ten days ago when the crew of a Merkavah-3 tank was burned alive when a 200kg (120 lbs) bomb was detonated near Israel's northern border.
It is also known that Russian-built Kornet missiles were sold to Syria. The laser-guided missiles manufactured in the 1990s are equipped with a thermal sight. They pose a threat to even the most advanced tank.
A SABBATH OF HEAVY ROCKET ATTACKS
The Sabbath brought another heavy day of rocket attacks, with over 160 rockets striking northern cities between 10:00am-7:00pm. Property damage was extensive, and dozens of people were injured, including two who were listed in serious condition on Saturday night.
Thousands of Israelis have fled their homes in Haifa and other cities, explaining the relatively low number of people killed and wounded in rocket attacks. Israel Police beginning Sunday will be increasing the number of personnel deployed in northern cities, primarily to prevent looting and break-ins.
Magen David Adom emergency medical service officials reported on Saturday night that since the start of the current Hizbullah warfare, on 12 July, 28 Israeli civilians and security personnel have been killed and 674 wounded in rocket attacks.
14 victims were seriously wounded, 31 moderate, 204 light and the remainder treated for varying levels of anxiety and hysteria
GROUND FORCES DEPLOYMENT A MUST
Military experts agree that while the air forces continues to dismantle the Hizbullah infrastructure from the air, ground forces must be brought into the picture if the terror organization is to be brought to it knees. Last week's emergency call-up of thousands of soldiers signals this stage may be beginning, with members of the General Staff warning fighting will be difficult against Hizbullah but there is no alternative.
Having carried out some 3,000 sorties and striking over 1,800 targets, the air force continues to strike at Hizbullah in all areas of Lebanon, in many cases successfully wiping out longer-range rockets and launchers on the ground, eliminating potential strikes by the terror organization against the Greater Tel Aviv area.
HIZBULLAH CONTINUES USING CIVILIANS AS SHIELDS
IDF Chief of Staff Lt-General Dan Halutz last week stated Operation Change of Direction was moving ahead, warning the process will take some time. The military commander stated once again that Hizbullah continues to base itself in civilian population areas, making Israel's job increasingly more difficult as the IDF takes measures to avoid collateral damage to civilians. Halutz added that the terror organization frequently places Katyusha rockets and launchers inside mosques, another technique aimed at enlisting the support of the international community against Israel.
US REMAINS FIRMLY BEHIND ISRAEL
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected in Israel to begin steps towards a ceasefire, but media reports are signaling US President George W. Bush is not planning to pressure Jerusalem to halt the operation at present. Rice will focus on Lebanon following the Israeli offensive, traveling from Israel to Rome where she will meet with United Nations officials and representatives of Arab states to discuss the rehabilitation of Lebanon.
President Bush in his remarks blames Iran and Syria for standing in the way of a ceasefire, stating it is they who threaten the stability of the entire Middle East. American lawmakers have come out in support of Israel's operation, seeing the destruction of Hizbullah as a major step in combating global Islamic terror.
ISRAEL SEEKS TO MINIMIZE CIVILIAN CAUSALITIES
For the past days, Israel has used taped telephone messages, leaflets and radio broadcasts to persuade southern Lebanese area residents to head north before the fighting increases, signaling Jerusalem's plan to cleanse southern Lebanon of Hizbullah. Israeli officials are indicating heavier air force bombardments are to be expected since Hizbullah's arsenal is well placed within civilian communities, which will be targeted as Israel seeks to eliminate thousands of rockets on the ground.
While analysts and military experts agree Hizbullah will not be totally eliminated, the direct threat along Israel's border can be removed and the terror organization can be weakened enough to permit the Government of Lebanon to deploy its forces along Israel's border in compliance with United Nations Resolution 1559.