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Sunday, August 13, 2006

No, the IDF got beat

19 IDF dead in Lebanon today

Israel Seeks Hint of Victory

Published: August 13, 2006

JERUSALEM, Aug. 12 — Israel’s move to greatly increase its ground forces in Lebanon a day before it is expected to accept a cease-fire has two goals: to damage Hezbollah as much as possible and to conclude the conflict with something that could be called a victory for an Israeli government under domestic pressure.

Israeli soldiers heading into southern Lebanon on Saturday. Many in Israel view the army's last push as too late to make a difference in the conflict.

Having begun the war by proclaiming that the aim was the destruction and disarmament of Hezbollah, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be able to claim only that Hezbollah is badly hurt and, with the help of international troops, effectively restrained — even without the robust new international force or disarming of the militia that Israel initially demanded.

In this last army push, which many here regard as too late to make a big difference, Mr. Olmert wants to ensure that the Iranian-backed militia and its stockpiles are at least cleared out of southern Lebanon.

The hope is that inhabitants of the north will be able to return home or emerge from bomb shelters without the daily fear of rocket fire.

The Israeli cabinet is scheduled to meet Sunday to discuss a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire. But the Israeli Army will be pressing forward at least until Monday, if not beyond, trying to destroy Hezbollah rockets and assets. That is a task that Israel does not believe the Lebanese Army, even accompanied by an expanded United Nations force, will dare to do.

Mr. Olmert and his defense minister, Amir Peretz, have been wounded by the perception that they mishandled the war and were overly reluctant to commit sizable ground forces when there was enough time to accomplish the government’s stated goals. The life of the government is likely to have been shortened.

The debate in Israel has not been over the war’s legitimacy — that is widely accepted. The attacks on the government have been over its handling of the assault.

In a familiar pattern of backbiting — the best indication that the war has not gone well — the army leadership is complaining that the politicians did not let the military do its job, and the politicians are complaining that the army promised that the task could be accomplished in a week or two and largely with air power.

The Israelis were beat on the ground, and it will take some time for the Israeli public to realize that.

Hizbullah's resilience built on years of homework

Meticulous planning and a thorough understanding of Israeli military doctrine both play into its success.
By Nicholas Blanford | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
NAQOURA, SOUTH LEBANON – For a month, several small groups of Hizbullah militants on a Lebanese hillside have withstood heavy artillery shelling and airstrikes to continue firing hundreds of Katyusha rockets into Israel from positions just a few hundred yards from the border.

Even seasoned observers with the United Nations peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, whose headquarters lies at the foot of the hillside, are baffled at how the guerrillas have managed to survive and keep up their steady rocket fire.

It's just one example of Hizbullah's surprising resilience in this war. Their ability to continue fighting against the most advanced and powerful army in the Middle East is rooted in the group's meticulous planning and thorough understanding of Israeli military doctrine and capabilities.

"They have done incredible staff work, learning the lessons of guerrilla warfare down the ages and carrying out a very deep and accurate analysis of the Israeli army," says Timur Goksel, who served with UNIFIL from 1979 to 2003 and witnessed Hizbullah's military evolution over two decades.

Israeli forces are poised to mount a full-scale invasion of south Lebanon - pending a last-ditch negotiation effort - in a bid to crush their Hizbullah foes and drive the remnants north of the Litani river, about 18 miles north of the border. Still, despite two decades of experience fighting Hizbullah in south Lebanon, the Israeli military appears to have underestimated the resilience of their Lebanese opponents.

Using advanced anti-armor missiles, snipers, and roadside bombs, and operating from an complex system of bunkers and tunnels, Hizbullah's battle-hardened fighters have survived airstrikes and artillery barrages enabling them to keep killing Israeli soldiers and firing rockets. On Wednesday, 15 Israeli soldiers were killed, the highest toll in a single day since the war began.

"They have lots of strongholds, which are very well disguised, and we need to eliminate their ability to attack Israel from these places," says a senior IDF military official. "It's a very hilly area and it's not easy. You cannot identify their bunkers until you're right there."

Small forces of locals

The militants presently on the front line are thought to number no more than 1,000, a fraction of the potential force Hizbullah could unleash. The fighters are drawn from the villages on the front lines, using their intimate knowledge of the local terrain to their advantage. Local groups of Hizbullah fighters communicate with each other by walkie-talkie using a code that draws upon their personal knowledge of each other and the geography. If Israeli forces push deeper into Lebanon, moving to new towns and villages, they will encounter new lines of fresh Hizbullah combatants.

"Even I have been surprised at the tenacity of these groups fighting in the villages. They have fought far beyond my expectations. And they haven't even committed all their fully-experienced troops yet," says Mr. Goksel.

The guerrillas are drawing on years of meticulous preparations and training, combined with access to newer weapons technology. The most effective weapons system employed by Hizbullah's front line guerrillas are antitank missiles. Small teams of specially-trained fighters have inflicted comparatively heavy casualties on Israeli troops, using advanced missiles to knock out the formidable Merkava tank and using older versions to punch through the walls of houses sheltering Israeli soldiers.

In the current war, Hizbullah has used for the first time the Russian Metis-M, which can be fitted with an anti-armor warhead for destroying tanks, or a fuel-air explosive warhead to use against troops or bunkers. The missile has a range of about one mile. Hizbullah is also reported to be employing the laser-guided Kornet-E anti-tank missile which has a range of about 3.5 miles. Individual fighters carry the shoulder-fired RPG-29, a more advanced version of the RPG-7 loved by guerrilla groups around the world since the 1960s. The RPG-29 was first used by Hizbullah last November in a failed attempt to kidnap Israeli soldiers.

The ability of the well-trained missile teams to knock out Israel's vaunted Merkava tanks has frustrated the traditional Israeli military doctrine for rapid armored thrusts deep into enemy territory. Instead, Israeli forces have inched cautiously northward and even after more than two weeks of stiff fighting have yet to capture and secure key border towns.

posted by Steve @ 12:36:00 AM

12:36:00 AM

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