Media pundits, not always the most reliable information source, have expressed surprise at how quickly the the Israeli crisis has escalated.
Perhaps the only real surprise (so far) is that Israel hasn't launched an incursion into south Lebanon, in an effort to crush Hizballah. That will come, perhaps in a matter of days. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) began calling up reservists a couple of days ago; as the Army mobilizes and deploys additional units, Israel will quickly marshal enough combat power to launch a major strike across its northern border, aimed at crushing the terrorist infrastructure in southern Lebanon, and reducing the rocket threat to northern settlements and cities. Each of the measures are part of long-standing (and carefully developed) plans, designed for this type of contingency.
As a part of their overall strategy, the IDF is implementing steps to isolate its enemies and limit their military options. The highly-publicized strikes against Beirut International Airport serve a two-fold purpose: first, to prevent the air transfer of captured Israeli soldiers to Iran, and secondly, to cut off the "air bridge" from Damascus and Syria, used to move supplies and reinforcements to Hizballah units in the Bekka Valley and southern Lebanon.
With the airport now closed, Israeli jets are now concentrating on choke points along the Damascus Highway, the major east-west supply route between terrorist sponsors in the Syrian capital, and their operatives in Lebanon. Latest media reports indicate that the IAF has struck at least five major bridges along that route, attempting to cut off the primary land route between Syria and terrorist bases in central and southern Lebanon. An Israeli naval blockade has been imposed off Beirut, isolating the city from the sea.
In the next phase of the operation, Israel will likely expand their attacks in southern Beirut (where Hizballah) has created a substantial infrastructure, as well as the Bekka Valley, another terrorist stronghold. At this point, Israel faces a greater chance of a direct confrontation with Syria, given their continued military presence along the Lebanese border. Syrian air defense sites east located of the valley could potentially engage Israeli aircraft in the area, raising the possibility of engagements between Syrian SAMs and the IAF.
Interestingly, Syria has built a number of bunkers at its forward air defense sites in recent years, underscoring that (a) Damascus understands the growing threat from Israeli PGMs, and (b) the Syrians may adopt a "hunker down" approach--if the Israelis come calling--trying to shelter and preserve equipment, vice actively engaging the IAF. Syria has long memories of the 1982 Bekka Valley campaign, where the IAF shot down over 80 Syrian jets (with no losses of their own), and destroyed a good chunk of Damascus's ground-based air defenses. In other words, terrorist groups operating in western Syria (and even the Damascus area) can expect little protection from the Syrian Air Force.
With the skies over Lebanon and the Golan secured, Israel can shift its focus to eliminating the rocket threat from southern Lebanon, with a combined air and ground campaign. I'm guessing that Israeli Apache pilots will be very busy in the coming days, targeting anyone who remotely resembles a terrorist rocket crew. The bad guys have light AAA and shoulder-fired SAMs for protection, but they're no match for Israeli attack helos and tactical fighters. As of early this morning (14 Jul), there had been only one additional rocket attack into northern Israel, suggesting that IAF targeting efforts are having an effect. Rocket attacks will decrease even more as the Israeli Army returns to southern Lebanon.
Mitigating the threat on the northern front will allow the Israelis to return to their original focus--dealing with Hamas in the Gaza, and securing the release of that captured corporal. At this point, Israeli feels relatively secure that the captured soldier remains in the Gaza area, and their recent detention of senior Palestinian officials gives the Olmert government a powerful bargaining chip. Some sort of exchange deal appeared to be in the works before the northern border erupted. Once the Lebanon situation stabilizes, the bulk of Israel's military effort will shift southward, depending on the tactical situation. However, the IDF is more than capable of fighting a two-front war, and the search for the missing solider in Gaza will continue, along with persistent surveillance of the region, and occasional strikes against Hamas targets.
There are, of course, some wild cards in the equation. The sudden execution of one (or all) the Israeli soldiers would prompt an even greater escalation by the IDF, and a possible expansion of its area of operations (think airstrikes against Damascus). Then, there's the Iran factor. Tehran has already indicated that an attack against Syria would be considered an attack against the wider Muslim world, suggesting that it would come to the aid of its ally. Iran's threats aren't entirely hollow, but it's military options are limited to (1) more terrorist attacks, (2) missile strikes against Israel, or (3) a long-range airstrike, using F-4 or SU-24 aircraft. The potential damage from these attacks would be limited (except if WMD were used), but the long-term consequences for Tehran would be exceptionally grave.