A Digest of debkafile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in Week Ending August 10, 2006

Hizballah long-range rockets come within 45 km of Tel Aviv


4 August: Two or three land for the first time in the Hadera and Pardess Hannah areas 50 km south of Haifa, deepest yet. Hizballah claimed to have hit Hadera with its Khaibar-1 long range rocket. Residents of Binyamina and Caesarea ordered to shelters for the first time. debkafile: Another long-range rocket fired at Jezreel Valley southeast of Haifa was aimed at the Ramat David air force base.


Iran supplies Hizballah with a battery of upgraded Zelzal missiles that can reach Israel’s nuclear reactor in Dimona


4 August: This disclosure by DEBKA-Net-Weekly 264 was confirmed Friday, August 4, by Ali-Akbar Mohtashami-Pour, former Iranian ambassador to Damascus and Tehran’s senior liaison with Hizballah. The acquisition of an improved Zelzal through Syria with a range of 350-400 km was behind Hassan Nasrallah’s threat to bomb Tel Aviv if Beirut came under another Israel air attack.

Tel Aviv is 150 km north of Dimona and therefore well within range of the improved Zelzal missile.


Four Israel women killed in Hizballah barrage of 175 rockets Saturday


5 August: Three of the victims on Day 25 of the war were a mother and her two daughters in the W. Galilee village of Arb al-Aramshe. In an earlier barrage in the Haifa region, Frieda Kellner, 87 died of heart failure when an 11-rocket volley landed outside her home. Six people were injured in Haifa’s Kiryat Motzkin, Kiryat Haim and Kiryat Yam, which suffered major damage to homes and cars, as did Kiryat Shemona in the afternoon.

A mortar shell seriously injured a soldier at his border post.


Israel prepares to target Sidon region, from which long-range missiles fired against Hadera Friday night


5 August: Rocket stores as well as launch sites are located in and around Sidon, a town of 200,000 inhabitants south of Beirut and in the outlying villages between the town and the Zahrani River.


Tehran Sends Legendary Mughniyeh to Rescue Hizballah


5 August: In the middle of the fourth week of the Lebanon War, the tide began to turn in Israel’s favor.

The setbacks of the first three weeks were partly due to tactical incompetence and laggard decision-making on the part of prime minister Ehud Olmert and defense minister Peretz. Israeli troops therefore spent too long in abrading combat against stubborn Hizballah resistance in such places as Maroun er Ras and Bint Jubeil. But as soon as Israeli ground forces shifted to the massive, long-distance firing mode which it knows best, the impact on the warfront was immediate.

Hizballah soon showed signs of distress. Lacking the weapons and resources to stand up to IDF’s precise-shooting juggernaut, their commanders quickly pulled their men out most combat sectors of South Lebanon and ordered them to regroup in five places.

These pockets became the main launching-pads for rockets fired into Israel.

With the right Israeli manpower level, Hizballah’s abilty to fire rockets can be dented, notwithstanding claims by Israel officials and generals. However, Olmert is still keeping the army short.

Still, by Thursday, August 3, Hizballah was showing signs of being in trouble.

Local Hizballah village commanders signaled repeated appeals for more manpower and ammunition and, most significantly, Hizballah’s shadowy special operations chief, the long-wanted Imad Mughniyeh, was hurriedly appointed commander of the southern front as a last resort to save South Lebanon.

debkafile‘s military and counter-terror sources maintain that this appointment raises the conflict to a new and dangerous level. Mughniyeh is important enough to take orders from no-one but Iran’s supreme ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Therefore, placing Mughniyeh at the head of Hizballah forces in South Lebanon brings prime minister Olmert uncomfortably close to facing Iran’s supreme leader.


In two deadly attacks Sunday, Hizballah rockets killed 15 Israelis


7 August: Twelve Israeli army reservists died, 13 were injured, as they unloaded trucks outside Kibbutz Kfar Gileadi near Kiryat Shemona. Most of the 260 rockets fired Sunday were directed against the Kiryat Shemona region of the Galilee panhandle in the east.

Eight hours later, 3 Israelis were killed, 189 were wounded, in a second heavy Hizballah rocket attack which focused on Haifa in the west. Six residential blocks were hit in different parts of Israel’s third largest city as well as the port area. Seven rockets started fires in Nahariya in the west.


Hizballah’s rocket offensive against Israel is orchestrated from a rear command located in the Syrian town of Anjar


7 August: While Israeli officials insist that Syria must be kept out of the conflict, the Assad regime is already in it up to their ears.

The command which coordinates the pace of those attacks is located at the Anjar base of the Syrian Army’s 10th Division opposite the Lebanese town of Az Zabdani. It is manned by Iranian and Hizballah officers, who take their orders from a Syrian military intelligence center in Damascus to which Iranian Revolutionary Guards intelligence officers are attached. It is headed by a general from one of Syria’s surface missile brigades. This joint command is provided with the most up-to-date intelligence and electronic data available to Syria on targets in Israel and IDF movements. The timing and tempo of Hizballah rocket strikes are set according to that information.

They keep Hizballah supplied with rockets through smuggling rings using mules and donkeys to slip across the mountain frontier.

A senior Israeli officer told debkafile: We can go on bombing Lebanon for many weeks, but that will not stop the rockets.


Lebanon Hostilities Are Nowhere Near a UN-initiated Cessation


8 August: Tuesday night, Aug. 8, the UN Security Council was to begin discussing a resolution drafted by the US and France calling for a full cessation of hostilities based on the immediate halt of all Hizballah’s attacks and immediate end of all Israeli offensive military operations.

A second resolution, the second half of the US-French effort to resolve the Middle East crisis by diplomacy, would set out a mandate for an international force to be sent out to Lebanon.

An Arab League delegation arrived at the UN in time to overshadow the deliberations with a strong representation of the Lebanese position, which insists on an Israel’s withdrawal after a ceasefire starts.

France pushed for two changes in the original text to address the Arab-Lebanese demands.

If the French-Arab-Lebanese initiative is allowed to proceed according to plan, debkafile‘s analysts foresee a serious erosion of the original draft which named Hizballah as the cause of the crisis.

The emerging text would deploy a token Lebanese force backed by an expanded UNIFIL contingent and French troops in southern Lebanon after Israel withdraws.

Hizballah will face a corresponding demand to pull its forces out of South Lebanon. But it will be understood in private exchanges that they will leave only after Israel cedes to international control the disputed Shebaa Farms. In the interim, Hizballah fighters will stay put with the status of “civilian residents.”

If this plan goes through, the Olmert government will come out of a painful and devastating war without achieving any of its objectives. Hizballah will have suffered a beating without being broken or bowed. The IDF will not have repaired its deterrent strength, and Hizballah, rather than Israel, will be seen – at least by Arab opinion – as having come out on top. A ransom in the coin of a prisoner exchange will be paid for the Israeli hostages. It is hard to see any force capable or willing to make Nasrallah pull his troops out of South Lebanon or disarm after the Israeli army failed.

Financial assistance will flood into Lebanon to repair the damage caused by Israeli bombardments; Israel will have to foot its own bill for the destruction wrought by Hizballah to one third of the country and the ruin of its economy.

Of course, Israel is still free to accept or reject these terms.


Israel‘s security ministers approve widening of military ground operation in Lebanon up to the Litani River and beyond


9 August: The decision Wednesday by 9 votes, none against and 3 abstentions, limits the expanded operation in time to 14 days and includes areas as far north of the border as the Nabatea plateau and Arnoun past the Litani River.

The objective of the extension is to reach rocket-launch centers. It deepens Israel`s thrust to some 45 km from the border and calls for a further large influx of army reserves.

debkafile‘s military sources add the extended operation does not promise the total stoppage of all rocket fire against Israel, but could potentially bring about a sizeable reduction from up to 200 a day to some 30 or 50.

The ministers who abstained were Dep. PM Shimon Peres, Labor’s Ofer Pines and Shas leader Eli Yishai.

Wednesday Israeli forces sustained high casualties from major Hizballah onslaught of anti-tank missiles in heavy clashes at Ayta a-Chaab and Debel. Israeli special forces are already fighting in the Qantara region east of the Litani. Despite massive Israeli aerial strikes and ground operations in the Tyre region in the west, Hizballah fired a series of long-range Khaibar-1 missiles from there which reached Haifa, Beit Shean, Afula, Zichron Yaacov and Jenin.


Lebanese PM rejects multinational force for South Lebanon in latest setback for diplomatic effort


9 August: Fouad Siniora told visiting US state department official David Welch Wednesday that only a Lebanese force backed by UNIFIL would be acceptable.

French president Jacques Chirac stressed in a broadcast statement that any ceasefire formula must embody two essential principles: full Lebanese sovereignty over all its territory and Israel’s right to security.


Hassan Nasrallah says he forbade Lebanese PM Siniora to give an inch on a multinational force


9 August: In a recorded TV statement, Wednesday night, the Hizballah leader said he is ready to fight Israel on the Litani River.


Israel lost 15 soldiers dead, 34 injured Wednesday in four clashes with Hizballah in S. Lebanon. Nine belonged to special operations units


9 August: This was the highest number of Israeli war losses in one day in thirty days of combat against Hizballah.


Eight Palestinian kidnap plots and 20 suicide bombing attempts against Israel foiled in month-long Lebanon war


9 August: Their main destinations were Tel Aviv, Rehovoth and Bnei Berak. debkafile: Violent Palestinian groups were instructed to step up their terrorist action to support the Hizballah war against Israel.


9 August: debkafile: Violent Palestinian groups were instructed to step up their terrorist action to support the Hizballah war against Israel. Their main destinations were Tel Aviv, Rehovoth and Bnei Berak.


Israeli forces face heavy resistance Thursday at al Khiam and Marjayun on the east bank of the Litani River


10 August: debkafile‘s military sources report: While officially the expanded Israeli ground offensive up to the Litani River and beyond was put on hold for 48 hours Thursday to allow diplomacy to kick in, the massive influx of men and tanks were already on the move Wednesday. Their missions are as defined by the security cabinet Wednesday are to seek out and destroy rocket sites, take out the estimated 2,500-3,000 Hizballah fighting men in the south and seize control of the Nabatea and Arnoun plains north of the Litani.

The Israeli force is advancing in four columns, spearheaded by special forces units and covered by exceptionally heavy artillery fire. Aerial bombardments are striking Hizballah positions in their path.

debkafile further reveals that the supreme commander of this widened offensive is Maj.-General Benny Gantz, commander of the IDF’s land forces. The ground offensive is pushing forward so that if diplomacy takes hold and a ceasefire is declared, Israel will have attained a good portion of its war objectives.

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