Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Hard Slog

Reports out of South Lebanon indicate fierce fighting between Hizballah and Israeli forces in the town of Bint Jbeil, 2.5 km from the Lebanese border. By various accounts, between eight and 13 Israeli soldiers have died in combat over the past 24 hours, and more than 30 have been wounded. Some of the fighting has occurred at extremely close quarters, with Hizballah terrorists blowing themselves up as they engage Israeli troops in combat.

It should be noted that none of these casualty totals are official. One terrorist spokesman claimed that 20 Israeli soldiers were "burned alive in their tanks on our soil." Such claims are dubious; even with a significant arsenal of anti-armor weapons, it is doubtful that Hizballah destroyed enough tanks or APCs to inflict that many casualties. Additionally, many of these reports are coming from media outlets (such as Dubai TV) that are vehemently anti-Israel, and will print or publish terrorist claims without blinking. Readers will also note that none of these dispatches mention Hizballah casualties. At least one media report indicates that the organization's #2 commander has been killed by Israeli forces, suggesting that Hizballah is also suffering significant losses.

Sadly, the IDF will lose more of its heroes in the day to come. Hizballah has had years to prepare the battlefield of southern Lebanon, creating scores of ambush sites and booby traps that must be neutralized as Israeli troops advance. Eventually, the IDF will overwhelm the terrorists--and Hizballah understands that. The question is: how high a price is Israel willing to pay to recapture the land between its northern border and the Latani River.

And, quite frankly, that's what the terrorists are counting on. By Hizballah's calculations, Israel remains psychologically scarred by its 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon, and (like the U.S) remains sensitive to combat losses. Inflict enough casualties, the logic goes, and Israel will eventually agree to some sort of cease-fire that allows Hizballah to retain a presence in Lebanon, rearm, and live to fight again.

It's a daring gambit, but only time will tell if Hizballah has calculated correctly, or grossly overplayed its hand. Late today, a senior Israeli general indicated that the incursion into south Lebanon will continue for at least several weeks, indicating that Tel Aviv is more than willing to press its attack, and suffer the losses that will inevitably occur. Yet, on the other hand, PM Olmert suggested today that Israel would accept some sort of settlement that would create a two-kilometer security zone beyond its northern border. Creation of that zone would, according to Olmert, prevent terrorists from launching rockets into northern Israel and contacting IDF patrols in the border region.

The size of that security zone seems rather small, given Hizballah's recent acquisition of longer-ranged rockets, and the inability of existing peace keeping forces to keep terrorists away from the border. Of course, the Israeli calculus may be predicated on the eradication of Hizballah, and the eventual deployment of a capable, NATO-led security force. But those events are still weeks (perhaps months) away. Until then, Israel faces a tough slog through Bint Jbeil and other terrorist strongholds. We should only hope that Israel's latest test by fire hardens their resolve, and makes them more determined to finish the job, whatever the cost.


M. Simon said...

The #1 mistake made by guerillas in guerilla warfare is going conventional too soon.

Fixed positions are the bane of guerilla warfare. Because fixed positions provide aiming points that don't move.

The 800 lb. gorilla in this war is Syria. It is apparent to every one that without taking Syria down the Israelis and Iraqis are going to have recurring trouble from that country.

I believe there for that a move against Syria is in the works.

Here is a nice link to a map of UN positions and Israeli movements. It explains why the Syrian Army is on full alert.

I think it will take another month of fighting for the Syrian Army to relax. Then expect the usual.....

Keep your eye on the phase of the moon.

Papa Ray said...

Well, 2km or 10km buffer zone is not enough to protect Israel from missiles and rockets.

Everybody knows that, so why even say something that you know everybody knows is nonsense?

Beats me, it's weird and off the wall. Just like this information that I saw for the first time today. I had seen bits and pieces over the last week, but here it is all neatly packaged.

Is Iran poised to strike

Also, for weird and scary, this story beats most I have heard that were fiction, but it happens to be true.

Here is the text of the passage that it was open to.

All that's missing to these two stories is the scary music in the background.

Papa Ray
West Texas

cynical joe said...

I think why Olmert is mentioning such a small buffer zone is because he's trying to lower expectations. The more I see of the battle, the more it seems to me that 50% of Israel's reaction was because Olmert didn't want to appear weak. Israel struck back hard and fast as a way to show Israel's enemies that even without Sharon, they are determined, which is fine, but now after the initial impulsive move there 's not a lot of ways to walk this thing back to ceasefire territory and still be able to claim victory. It appears that there's no way Hizbollah is going to be pushed to the Litani, Israel is already losing men and material two or three villages into Lebanon. Olmert probably thought airpower would be more decisive, but militaries have to keep learning that hard lesson over and over again, you need troops. Israel's incremental call-ups of reserves shows that there either wasn't a lot of planning for an incursion, or that resistance was underestimated. Without giving Hizbollah the kill-shot, they will emerge with a stronger and more heroic reputation amongst shia Lebanese, even if they suffer massive casualties. I assume Israel will continue to try and take out the rockets and the launchers but those things will be replaceable after a ceasefire.

John (Useful Fools) said...

Olmert appears to be incompetent. Israel has tried bombing (costing it immense political capital) and then puny ground strikes.

Olmert's offer of a 2km buffer zone is an offer to Hezbollah of a great victory, one that will be celebrated by every Islamist and would-be terrorist in the world. If this is all Israel can do, we need to rethink our (US) policy of unquestioning support. Israel MUST do better.

Isreal needs to understand that they lose international political capital with time - time is their enemy and will defeat them if they don't win first. If they are going to pay a price in international opinion (and they will no matter what), they should just accept that and do what is necessary.

They need cojones.

Israel needs the kind of bold tactics they used in the past - such as punching through to the Litani, cutting off the zone, and then handling the villages. In other words, accept the casualties of penetrating prepared defense at one or two points, in trade for trapping the enemy.

If they take too many casualties capturing the Hezbollah positions in the cities, they should use bombs or artillery to completely level them (after the civilians have been warned). They should do it - to all the villages at once before the rest of the world can stop them.

Instead, they drop bombs in Beirut where they anger even the non-Shias and provide great pictures for TV - anti-Israel pictures.