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July 29, 2006
IDF Preparing Ground Incursion, Setting Table For Int'l Forces

After successfully reducing Bint Jbeir and Maroun al-Ras, the IDF has amassed its forces at the border for more operations in southern Lebanon. With American diplomacy working towards an end to the fighting, the Israelis want to clear as much territory from Hezbollah as possible in the time remaining:

The IDF wrapped up its operations in the southern Lebanese village of Bint Jbail on Saturday and withdrew most of its troops from the area. At the same time, the army was gearing up for a new ground incursion into Lebanon.

Also Saturday night, the IAF struck a road along the Lebanese border with Syria that the IDF said was being used by Damascus to smuggle weapons to Hizbullah.

It does not appear that Israel has contemplated an all-out occupation of the land south of the Litani. However, they do intend on trapping as many of Hezbollah's fighters between their airstrikes and their ground forces. Cutting off the road to Damascus ensures that Hezbollah will get little resupply from their Syrian patrons. It helps the Israelis force Hassan Nasrallah to run through his stores quickly, a pragmatic if disturbing manner to render them more impotent later on.

As David Horovitz explains in the Jerusalem Post, the initiative aims to beat the clock in kneecapping Hezbollah for the peacekeepers that will surely come soon to southern Lebanon:

[T]he talk is of 10-20,000 troops led by France and/or Turkey, with possible contingents from Germany, Italy, India, Brazil and Pakistan. But with European troops bound to be targeted by Hizbullah and its allies, some commentators are suggesting that any European role should be backed up with forces from the Arab world - from Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and/or Jordan.

However composed, the concern for Israel is that the force simply will not survive in the vicious territory where it will deploy. And, ironically given the international pressure for its establishment, the strong sense in Israel is that the sooner it takes shape and the Israeli-Hizbullah fighting ends, the poorer the force's chances of having a constructive impact and a viable future.

Anxious to minimize Lebanese civilian casualties, concerned not to find itself reoccupying Lebanon, determined to limit its ground force fatalities, yet increasingly aware of the limitations of its air power, the IDF is, nonetheless, daily weakening the potent guerrilla infrastructure Hizbullah has painstakingly constructed over the past six years. Its commanders chorus, day after intense, taxing day rooting out a thoroughly entrenched guerrilla force, that it still has much more left to do. If a ceasefire comes sooner rather than later, purported "good news" for international diplomacy would likely turn out to be very bad news indeed for the international troops left to grapple with a defiant, even victorious Hizbullah.

The Israelis have plenty of experience with peacekeepers lacking any will or ability to fight off Hzbollah. They understand that they have a short window of time in which to inflict maximum damage. With luck, they may have enough time to reduce the terrorists to a point where even a multinational force can force them to withdraw -- or better yet, put Hezbollah in position where it is unable to challenge at all.

Given those parameters, expect the IDF to strike soon and hard.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 29, 2006 10:49 PM

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