[Marxism] Israel gets nose bloodied

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jul 26 07:31:22 MDT 2006


Washington Post, July 26, 2006
Several Israeli Troops Reportedly Killed in Lebanon
By John Ward Anderson, Jonathan Finer and Robin Wright

JERUSALEM, July 26 -- The Israeli army suffered heavy casualties Wednesday 
as it struggled to take the Hezbollah stronghold of Bint Jbeil in the 
fiercest ground clash so far in a war now into its third week.

Arab news outlets reported the deaths of at least nine and as many as a 
dozen Israeli troops at Bint Jbeil, numbers unconfirmed by Israeli 
officials, who did acknowledge in a statement that there were 20 wounded in 
"close-quarter" fighting.

Separately, the Israeli Defense Forces reported one of the heaviest 24 hour 
periods of bombing yet in Lebanon, with 180 aerial attacks by Israel 
between 8 a.m. Tuesday and 8 a.m. Wednesday. They also reported a major 
attack by Israel on Hamas positions near Gaza.

Attacks on Israel by Hezbollah continued as well. The government said that 
over a hundred Hezbollah rockets had been fired into Israel overnight, an 
indication that Israel has failed to neutralize Hezbollah despite 14 days 
of ground and air assault.

In Rome, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Secretary of State Condoleezza 
Rice and foreign ministers from Europe and the Middle East met in some 
discord to discuss what Annan called "a grave humanitarian crisis."

Annan called for a cessation of hostilities to allow consultation on a 
political framework as well as a major relief effort. He said Syria and 
Iran should be involved in the process, a notion immediately rejected by 
the U.S. which also objects to a cessation prior to some sort of "enduring" 
agreement, as Rice has put it.

"We see this as part of an effort by Iran and Syria to destabilize the 
region," said State Department spokesman Adam Ereli. "They're part of the 
problem."

The bombing has uprooted over 700,000 Lebanese who have fled the Israeli 
attacks, while Israeli bombing of Lebanon's infrastructure has cut off 
access to food and medical supplies.

On Tuesday, Israeli air attacks claimed the lives of four international 
observers at a United Nations post in southern Lebanon. Annan accused 
Israel of deliberately attacking the post. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud 
Olmert continued Wednesday to dispute Annan and said the government has 
begun an investigation.

It is "inconceivable that the error that was made would be defined by the 
U.N. as an action that was deliberate," Olmert said in a statement.

Some aid was reported by the United Nations to be on its way for the first 
time to the city of Tyre, one of the hardest-hit of Lebanese cities.

The fighting in and around Bint Jbeil , called the "capital" of Hezbollah 
operations by one Israeli general, has been going on for several days and 
has become increasingly brutal.

A spokesman for the IDF said "apparently there is some truth" in the 
reports of numerous deaths among Israeli forces and acknowledged that 
contrary to earlier statements, Israel has not gained control of the 
Lebanese border town.

Mitch Pilcer, an IDF spokesman in nearby Avivim, confirmed that there was 
still "heavy fighting" at Bint Jbeil Wednesday. "We're still pulling out 
the wounded and they're bringing in a helicopter," he said. "We're trying 
to pull the wounded out under fire." He said the Army had "cleared out" 
most of the Hezbollah fighters. "Some of them came up from underground and 
we took care of them," he said.

Maj. Zvika Golan, a spokesman for the Israeli army's Northern Command, said 
fighting in the last few days has killed about 200 Hezbollah fighters. "The 
village is absolutely not under control. . . . We walked into a wasps' nest 
and we knew it would be wasps' nest."

He said Hezbollah fighters "are in all the villages in the area. The enemy 
is all around."

Meanwhile, in Gaza, the IDF said, aerial and tank attacks hit nine cells of 
Hamas gunmen east of Gaza city.

Among those killed in the attacks in Gaza on Wednesday were six loyalists 
of the governing Hamas militant group and one gunman from the Islamic Jihad 
faction, officials said. The Reuters news service said the attack also 
killed an infant and a three-year-old, children of Hamas fighters. Israel 
said it was investigating the report.

Finer reported from Avivim. Wright reported from Rome. Edward Cody 
contributed to this story from Lebanon and Fred Barbash contributed from 
Washington .

===

NY Times, July 26, 2006
Strategy
Israel Finding a Difficult Foe in Hezbollah
By STEVEN ERLANGER and THOM SHANKER

JERUSALEM, July 25 — A week ago, Israeli officials said their military had 
knocked out up to half of Hezbollah’s rocket launchers and suggested that 
another week or two would finish the job of incapacitating the Lebanese 
militia. That talk has largely stopped.

Hezbollah is still launching 100 rockets a day at Israel, nearly as many as 
it did at the start of the war. Soldiers return from forays into Lebanon 
saying the network of bunkers and tunnels is more sophisticated than 
expected. And Iranian-made long-range missiles apparently capable of 
hitting Tel Aviv remain in the Hezbollah arsenal.

“Two weeks after Israel set out to defeat Hezbollah, its military 
achievements are pretty limited,” lamented Yoel Marcus, a columnist and 
supporter of the war, in the daily Haaretz on Tuesday.

Israeli military commanders say they are not surprised. The struggle is so 
difficult, they say, because Hezbollah is an organized, well-trained and 
well-equipped force and is fighting hard.

“Hezbollah is organized more like an army than the Palestinian militias, 
and they are supported with some of the best weapons systems that Iran and 
Syria have,” said Yaakov Amidror, an Israeli major general, now in the 
reserves, who headed the research and assessment branch of Israeli military 
intelligence.

“Never before in history has a terrorist organization had such 
state-ofthe-art military equipment,” from medium-range rockets and 
laser-guided antitank missiles to well-designed explosive mines that can 
cripple an advanced tank, General Amidror said.

At the same time, Hezbollah has no armor or easily visible storehouses or 
logistics lines, the Israelis say, and its members live among the civilian 
population of southern Lebanon, storing their weaponry in civilian buildings.

That is why Israel’s top commanders say this operation may take many weeks.

That is a judgment supported in Washington by Henry A. Crumpton, the former 
director of the C.I.A.’s campaign in Afghanistan in 2001-02 and now the 
State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism.

Hezbollah has “been able to build pretty stalwart defenses, pretty 
elaborate bunker systems, and they are fighting hard right now,” he said 
Tuesday, adding, “So it will take a while for the Israelis to get in there 
and deny that space.”

At the Pentagon, senior military planners cast the conflict as a localized 
example of America’s broader campaign against global terrorism and said any 
faltering by Israel could harm the American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hezbollah “has features of a stateless terrorist organization, but it also 
holds territory — and is quite dug in there — and is able to hold at risk 
the population of the regional superpower in the way that only national 
militaries once could,” said a senior military officer with experience in 
Iraq, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to 
speak publicly on the issue.

In Israel, there is a debate over the army’s tactics and performance, but 
that has centered mostly on the effectiveness of the air war and the slow 
speed of ground operations.

A government minister, Eitan Cabel, a former paratrooper, caused a stir on 
Sunday when he expressed disappointment in the performance and speed of the 
army. “I admit I had hoped for better from the army,” he said, arguing that 
it was illusory to try “completely to eliminate Hezbollah as an armed force 
in Lebanon.”

Avi Dichter, the Israeli minister for public security and until recently 
the director of the Shin Bet domestic security agency, said, “If there are 
surprises, they’re local surprises, not strategic surprises.”

By that he meant the depth and quality of Hezbollah’s underground bunkers 
and storehouses, Israeli officials said. Mr. Dichter said Israel’s 
deliberate pace was an effort to minimize casualties — both to Israeli 
forces and to Lebanese civilians.

“You can do it in a short time,” he said. “You can flood southern Lebanon 
with ground troops and you can bomb villages without warning anyone, and it 
will be faster. But you’ll kill a lot more innocent people and suffer a lot 
more casualties, and we don’t intend to do either.”

Yuval Steinitz, who heads the defense preparedness subcommittee of 
Parliament’s Foreign and Defense Committee, is critical of the current 
pace, arguing that the air war has not been sufficient. A ground war should 
have started sooner and should be prosecuted more energetically, he said, 
occupying southern Lebanon northward at least to the Litani River, some 15 
miles from the border.

He agreed, though, that “there have been no serious surprises on the 
intelligence level about Hezbollah.” In fact, he said, Israeli intelligence 
was good enough that the air force was able to hit a large portion of 
Hezbollah’s most powerful and longerrange missiles in the first 48 hours of 
the air war.

But Hezbollah’s thousands of short-range Katyusha rockets and their 
launchers, some of which are simple tripods that can be stored in houses, 
are much harder to identify and hit from the air, Mr. Steinitz and others said.

Israel’s difficulty, given how quickly the war began, has been to get 
necessary intelligence information to infantry units in real time, Mr. 
Steinitz said. “Some of the intelligence about what’s on the ground is very 
sensitive, and Hezbollah did not know we had it, and there are cases where 
it hasn’t been delivered in due time to the unit.”

In secret committee hearings less than two years ago, Mr. Steinitz said, he 
and others on the committee debated the army’s plans for an air war against 
Hezbollah. “We said that you can’t just do it from the air, and not in 
three days. We said you can do a good job, inflict a heavy blow to 
Hezbollah and reduce rocketing. But you can’t stop it, and a quarter of 
Israel will be in the shelters.”

Part of what makes Hezbollah unique as a nonstate militia is its store of 
more than 10,000 rockets, including a few hundred Syrian- and Iranian-made 
missiles that can go more than 60 miles and carry large warheads. Some of 
the Syrian missiles, like the ones that hit a Haifa railway yard, have 
warheads filled with antipersonnel weapons like ball bearings.

A Katyusha can be launched, on command, by a man who takes it from his 
house and can be back inside, as a civilian, in 10 minutes, General Amidror 
said. “He’s under command, but he has his own logistics, and he lives as a 
civilian among civilians. And only the ground forces can deal with these 
guys in the villages.”

Unlike the Palestinian militias, Hezbollah is organized into specialty 
units: one to fire long-range missiles, another to fire antitank rockets, 
still another for demolitions. They are well trained by Iranians, in Iran, 
Lebanon or Iraq, General Amidror said. Each combat unit fight as a unit, 
with tactics. The full-time fighters number about 3,000, the Israelis say. 
A wider circle of part-time militiamen — guards, Katyusha launchers — 
numbers several thousand more.

Mr. Crumpton, the American official, said that resupply of small arms was 
impossible to stop, but that American intelligence reports indicated that 
the Israelis had blocked the resupply of larger missile systems.

“We haven’t seen anything in the last few days of missiles coming from 
Syria across the border into southern Lebanon,” he said. “Right now it’s 
very difficult for any kind of movement into southern Lebanon because of 
the Israeli efforts.”

Mr. Crumpton said Israel was damaging Hezbollah’s infrastructure. “It’s not 
just about the missiles and launchers,” he said, “it’s about the roads and 
transport, the ability to command and control. All that is being degraded. 
But it’s going to take a long time. I don’t believe this is going to be 
over in the next couple of days.”

Steven Erlanger reported from Jerusalem for this article, and Thom Shanker 
from Washington.

--

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