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August 12, 2006
Now It's Time To Play Beat The Clock

Neither Israel nor Lebanon acted urgently to ratify the UN Security Council cease-fire resolution, putting off consideration from both Cabinets until Sunday. Israel used the time to push forward on its military goals, trying to accomplish as much as possible before the cease-fire comes into effect:

Israel staged wide-ranging airstrikes and sent commandos into the Hezbollah heartland Saturday while the U.N. raced to begin enforcing its new cease-fire blueprint and stop combat. Airstrikes killed at least 19 people, including 15 in one Lebanese village.

Israel also blasted a highway near Lebanon's last open border crossing to Syria as it kept up its full-scale campaign against Hezbollah militants. Long columns of Israeli tanks, troops and armored personnel carriers streamed over the border.

Some people may ask why Israel bothers to do this, considering it has already agreed to the cease-fire, at least provisionally until its Cabinet meets. The answer is found in the terms of the resolution, which allows Israel to withdraw in parallel to the deployment of the Lebanese Army and the bolstered UNIFIL forces. Israel wants to place the IDF in position to meet these forces and withdraw as a coordinated effort. If that did not happen, the vacuum left behind would almost certainly create opportunities for Hezbollah to mobilize and strike at the Israeli forces.

The more obvious answer, though, is that Israel has a short window of time to degrade Hezbollah capabilities while in theater, and they want to take advantage of it. It could be argued that they had plenty of time to do this before, and that criticism is valid indeed. They still have time left, though, and the Israelis apparently intend to make the most of it. Now that they know the terms of the cease-fire, they need to ensure that their position at the end of the conflict allows for the greatest possible chance of success for the Lebanese Army to control the buffer zone.

All of this assumes that the cease-fire even gets implemented, an open question given Hassan Nasrallah's influence on Beirut. The third strategic issue is the ground position if the resolution never gets implemented. The IDF needs to make sure that they control strategic points within southern Lebanon in order to roll out their massive offensive if it becomes necessary. That's why the IDF attacked communication lines going in and out of Lebanon this morning; they want to make sure that resupply is blocked until the very last moment.

The Israelis have fought an almost diffident war until now. This last burst will remind Lebanon of the true capabilities of the IDF, in case they're tempted to allow Hezbollah to continue its war.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 12, 2006 7:35 AM

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