[Marxism] re: What the hell has happened to the Israeli army?
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Aug 14 14:31:26 MDT 2006
>Not that this detracts from the achievements of Hezbollah. It defies
>explanation that they hold these small villages near the border that have
>been pounded for weeks, where Israel does not dare to send troops back in.
>There was a jaw-dropping article about this 12 hours ago on NYTimes but I
>don't know where it's disappeared.
>M. Junaid Alam
NY Times, August 14, 2006
With the Troops
Largely Empty, Stronghold of Militia Is Still Perilous
By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr.
BINT JBAIL, Lebanon, Aug. 12 Not long ago, this town was known as the
capital of the resistance, the most important Hezbollah stronghold in the
southern reaches of Lebanon.
Now Bint Jbail appears largely deserted. Most of the homes are damaged,
some pockmarked by bullets or shrapnel and others reduced to piles of stone
and concrete by Israeli artillery that continues to pound the village.
But while Israeli troops have pushed farther north, Bint Jbail remains a
very dangerous place for Israeli soldiers and a fitting illustration for
why the war has become so frustrating for troops who had come to expect a
swift and deep push into Lebanon.
Late on Wednesday night, Israeli soldiers from the elite Golani Brigade
hiked five miles through darkness over tall hills carrying full packs,
rifles and heavy jugs of water, arriving here a few hours before dawn.
Accompanied by a reporter, they holed up in the second story of an
Hezbollah attacked a few hours later, at 8 a.m., firing a powerful missile
into a Merkava tank in front of the house, wounding two crewmen.
Two hours later, a second antitank missile slammed into the top of the
three-story house with a thunderous crack, shattering some of the few
remaining windowpanes and shaking the home violently.
No soldiers had been on the top floor, and no one was hurt. But after two
close calls, commanders herded a dozen enlisted men into the room thought
to offer the most protection from missiles, an unfinished bathroom on the
first floor. A few other members of the 20-man unit lay down outside the
room, in an area between thick concrete walls.
The unit that had taken shelter in this house, part of the Golani Brigades
51st Battalion, spent the next 36 hours sitting cramped-legged on bathroom
tiles, dozing while leaning on one another, their rifles and their buddies
legs on top of them. Hezbollah missiles continued to occasionally explode
It was not the battalions first mission here. On July 26, eight battalion
soldiers were killed in close-quarters fighting with Hezbollah militiamen,
including a deputy commander who threw himself on a live grenade to save
the men around him.
Instead of that sort of fighting, the Israeli troops in Bint Jbail now
dread the Hezbollah missiles that have forced the Israelis to alter much of
its battle plan, as troops in Lebanon tailor their moves in fear of the
militias modern and accurate weapons. After first pushing into Lebanon in
heavy armor, the Israeli forces are doing much more on foot and also
walking at night to avoid giving the Hezbollah missile units an easy
target, commanders here said. Even in areas well behind the front lines,
the soldiers days are spent hiding away from windows in reinforced,
interior rooms to avoid the danger demonstrated by Thursday mornings near
This battle resembles Russias fight against Chechen rebels, said Vladi,
one of the Israeli soldiers who took shelter in the house here. An émigré
who fought in the Russian Army, Vladi, who declined to give his last name,
said Israel now faced a more robust foe than the Chechens. Hezbollah is
tougher, he said.
On the ridge where the 51st Battalion hunkered down, many homes were of
sturdy, expensive construction. The partly built home where the 20-member
unit of the Golani Battalion had taken shelter appeared to be intended for
a wealthy family, with thick concrete walls and ceilings, elaborate crown
moldings, and stylish tiling. Now it was strewn with shards of glass, heaps
of dust, wood splinters and trash. After Thursdays missile strikes, Col.
Omri Bar-David peered through pieces of glass still hanging in a window
frame and pointed to a ridge about two miles away being bombed by Israeli
jets. That, he said, is where the missiles were launched.
Both missiles that struck Thursday were Russian-made Kornets, with a range
up to about three miles, said Colonel Bar-David, a reserve commander of
another battalion, and a corporate lawyer in civilian life, who had made
the trip with the Golani soldiers.
At first we sent the armor in, but the Hezbollah had missiles, he said.
So we decided to use the old method on two legs. Hezbollah fighters, he
added, are skilled and resilient. From the point of view of the individual
soldier, they are better than the Arab armies that surround us, he said,
referring to other Middle Eastern nations.
The missile attacks on Thursday morning were dangerous, but nothing like
earlier battles in Bint Jbail and nearby villages. In one attack, Hezbollah
militiamen struck a house of Israeli soldiers with three missiles, killing
two men and wounding 30 everybody in the house, said Joel Abel, a
sergeant and medic for a unit of paratroopers that had been engaged in
fierce fighting in Bint Jbail, Aita al Shaab and Marun al Ras. Interviewed
in northern Israel as he waited for his unit to return to Lebanon, Sergeant
Abel described how missile attacks and cramped quarters had taken their
toll on some younger soldiers in his unit who had been holed up in houses
attacked by Hezbollah.
They were quite hysterical, he said. They sat on the side and didnt
know what to do. It was the first time theyd ever seen that kind of
fighting, he said, fighting you dont see from the Palestinians.
At one point, Sergeant Abel said, a soldier preparing to fire at a
Hezbollah position dived into a small room with five other soldiers to
avoid another incoming missile. He said the Israeli soldier accidentally
fired his weapon, severing the leg of another soldier who screamed, My leg
is boiling. Save me!
During a moment of relative quiet at the house in Bint Jbail, a few younger
troops listened as the most experienced soldier in the house, Col. Shlomo
Parente, 48, who first fought in Lebanon during Israels occupation more
than two decades ago, tried to put this war into some perspective.
In the first war we got to the Litani after four or five days, he said,
referring to the river. This is different. Hezbollah doesnt run, they
know how to fight, and they are fanatics.
In an interview later, Colonel Parente also blamed Israeli leaders, saying
their indecisiveness was responsible for the lack of progress. This time
its like fighting through chewing gum, or glue, he said.
Nor does he have faith in the Lebanese Army, which under the United Nations
cease-fire plan would patrol southern Lebanon with an international
peacekeeping force. While the cease-fire is supposed to go into effect on
Monday morning, it was not clear how soon the actual fighting would stop.
They are no good, he said of the Lebanese soldiers. They are afraid of
The Golani soldiers got along well despite the cramped quarters. They slept
with their heads on one anothers shoulders as they occasionally fidgeted
to get more comfortable, or emerged from the bathroom to take a turn
Its been ugly, said Dudi Levisohn, an enlisted man, as he stood guard.
But its our job.
Speaking matter-of-factly, without sarcasm, he added, We suffer so the
people in Tel Aviv can enjoy themselves.
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