[Marxism] re: What the hell has happened to the Israeli army?

Louis Proyect 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.
>
>
>--
>Sincerely,
>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 
unfinished house.

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 Brigade’s 
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 
nearby.

It was not the battalion’s 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 
militia’s 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 morning’s near 
misses.

This battle resembles Russia’s 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 Thursday’s 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 didn’t 
know what to do. It was the first time they’d ever seen that kind of 
fighting,” he said, fighting “you don’t 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 Israel’s 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 doesn’t 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 
it’s 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 
Hezbollah.”

The Golani soldiers got along well despite the cramped quarters. They slept 
with their heads on one another’s shoulders as they occasionally fidgeted 
to get more comfortable, or emerged from the bathroom to take a turn 
standing guard.

“It’s been ugly,” said Dudi Levisohn, an enlisted man, as he stood guard. 
“But it’s 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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